It took five starts for Andrew Cashner to finally break, and unfortunately for him and the Orioles, his string of stymying opponents with runners on base came to an end opposite the reigning Cy Young Award winner in a 7-3 Orioles loss on Sunday at Camden Yards.
Cashner didn't allow a hit with a runner in scoring position in his first four games, and left Cleveland Indians on second and third base in a tense third inning.
But the streak ended this year at 0-for-20 when, after a bases-empty home run by José Ramírez, Cashner gave up back-to-back doubles to Edwin Encarnación and Yonder Alonso to put the Orioles behind 2-1 in the fourth inning.
With the Orioles up 3-2 in the fifth inning, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley each singled with a runner on second base to give the Indians a 4-3 lead that would more than hold up.
"Once you get the lead, you can't give it up," Cashner said. "I had to bear down and made some pitches. They fell in. I gave up some hard-hit balls, but I thought I had a lot of soft contact, too."
To this point in the season, Cashner's ability to strand runners had been his greatest asset. He's allowed six home runs, but five have been with the bases empty, and he's backed up his reputation as being a pitcher who competes in every at-bat and doesn't give in.
Sunday began looking like a day when he wouldn't even need to use that skill. He struck out four batters — two swinging and two looking — through two perfect innings before needing to stiffen his back and work out of the third. He ended with a season-high seven strikeouts, his most since he struck out nine Sept. 7, 2016.
Even as he ceded two leads, he wouldn't have been second-best to many pitchers with the effort he turned in. Kluber is what made him so Sunday.
"He battled his way," manager Buck Showalter said of Cashner. "I thought it was a good effort, gave us a chance to win. It's a good lineup, obviously. They haven't been swinging the bats as well as they're capable of, but I thought we had a shot at them there. ... Cash fought his way through it and kept us engaged in the game, didn't let it get away from him. Pretty impressive the last out he got to get us to that sixth inning."
Cashner has pitched at least five innings in each of his five starts with the Orioles, and gone six or more in his past four. He has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP with 28 strikeouts in 30 innings.