Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about the pitching after the Orioles lose to the Blue Jays, 2-1. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
Andrew Cashner came into camp this spring with the Orioles and took control, letting everyone know that nights like this were what to expect from him.
In a rotation that at the time didn't yet include Alex Cobb or Chris Tillman, Cashner grabbed the reigns of a young group that needed someone who could be relied on to do what he did Tuesday: seven shutout innings with four hits, three walks, six strikeouts and no one making it past second base.
And if Cashner, a warm-weather pitcher, has to stick his foot in front of a batted ball up the middle in 45-degree weather to make it that way? So be it.
That the offense matched Cashner's zeroes in much more notable fashion might obscure what their veteran right-hander did, but in two of his three starts, the bravado that so endeared him to the Orioles clubhouse has been backed up.
"There were some situations there that he bowed up and got it done," manager Buck Showalter said. "He was good. That was another good outing, back-to-back, something we needed with our bullpen kind of beat up from as much use as we've had. He was good. Gave us a great chance to win."
Unlike his last time out, when he pitched six strong innings in his Yankee Stadium debut against the Yankees, the Orioles couldn't make winners out of him. They fell 2-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays.
But that game in New York, like this one scoreless deep into the middle innings, is the type of game Cashner knows how to pitch in.
"I kind of feel like this has been my whole career," Cashner said. "When I was in San Diego, I didn't really have a lot of run support. It's one of those things when you know every pitch means something. I'm not saying it doesn't sometimes, but for me, it's more that you're more invested in every pitch just because you know it's going to be a tight game all night."
A week into his time with the team, Cashner developed the reputation as a winner at any cost. That showed up in the gnawing cold before an announced crowd of 8,640.
It was required of him because, with left fielder Curtis Granderson on first base after a leadoff walk, Cashner went to a full count with Justin Smoak before striking him out. Granderson ran on the pitch, and the throw from catcher Chance Sisco skidded past second base.
With the Orioles in the shift, the left side of the infield was vacant, and Granderson broke for the base. Cashner did the same from the mound, took the throw from second base, and ended up making more of a tackle than a tag.
However, Smoak was called for interference on the initial throw at the plate, and Granderson was sent back to first. So Cashner struck out the next batter, designated hitter Yangervis Solarte, on four pitches.
Cashner worked around two baserunners in the second and a leadoff single by Granderson in the third before illustrating again the lengths he'd go to keep the Orioles from falling behind. With one out, catcher Russell Martin stung a ground ball up the middle that was ticketed for center field.
But Cashner stuck out his right foot to block it, then corralled it just in time to fire to first base for the out. He was checked on by the trainers — and possibly advised not to do that again in such cold weather, where the sting is far worse.
"I don't know why I did that," Cashner said later. "It was kind of dumb. My foot hurts right now. But, it was a free out."
He went on to retire six straight batters before a hit batter and a walk made the fifth inning tense. But the sixth was not, and neither was the seventh. He leaned on his sinker all day, throwing the pitch 50 times and getting 11 field outs with it against just one hit.
Cashner left having thrown 104 pitches — 61 for strikes — and lowered his ERA with the Orioles to 2.50, with a 1.11 WHIP.
"He attacks the hitters, throws strikes—a sinkerballer, you know?" second baseman Jonathan Schoop said. "He's really good, and he was on his game today, too.