A big fourth inning was more than enough for a nearly flawless Andrew Cashner and the Orioles to achieve something they hadn't since their previous trip to Toronto during the first week of the season: a three-game winning streak.
Cashner, who is in the heart of his best stretch as an Oriole, retired the first 10 batters he faced and yielded just a run on three hits in seven innings, bringing his ERA to a season-low 3.83. As a result, the Orioles won a third consecutive game — 8-1 over the Toronto Blue Jays — for the first time since they won four straight from March 30 to April 2 in New York and Toronto.
“It's all about pitching,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I think we're going to score runs and have some athleticism and we usually play pretty good defense. Being able to limit tough offenses in the American League — when we win the game, that's why.”
Saturday's win, achieved in a snappy 2:30 at Rogers Centre, assure the Orioles (27-61) go into the All-Star break with a series win, their second in their past three, after going over two months without one.
Cashner (9-3) made sure of that early. He was perfect in turning over Toronto's lineup a first time before the Blue Jays' defense and the Orioles' bats conspired to give him a big cushion.
Trey Mancini reached on an error to open the fourth inning and scored on a missile of a home run from Renato Núñez. Anthony Santander and Keon Broxton each had run-scoring hits before the Orioles made an out. A run-scoring groundout by Richie Martin completed the five-run inning.
Cashner allowed a pair of singles around a wild pitch in the bottom of the fourth to lose his bid at perfection, but was right back at it by allowing one hit the rest of the way. Just as it was in his previous start, his changeup was a weapon, notching nine outs on 10 balls in play and achieving one of his four strikeouts.
“He's just really throwing the ball,” Hyde said. “He's got nine wins on a team that's way under .500. It's really impressive to be able to keep us in games the way he has.”
He entered June with a 5.04 ERA, but with an ERA of 1.41 and a 0.718 WHIP in his past five starts, Cashner has his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since April 28, 2018. Cashner has the lowest ERA of any starter in the American League since the beginning of June, according to FanGraphs.
Cashner noted his strong start to 2018, when he had a 3.60 ERA through five starts, as competition for this being his best run with the Orioles, and credited pitching coach Doug Brocail for his recent success.
“I owe a lot of it to Broc, just working with him — you know, having a pitching coach — being able to communicate and that kind of stuff, I think it's a big difference,” Cashner said.
Jimmy Yacabonis and Shawn Armstrong breezed through the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Nice company for Núñez
When Núñez broke the game open with a 109 mph rocket to left field, he became the third Orioles player with at least 20 home runs before the All-Star break at age 25 or younger.
The most recent to do so was Manny Machado, who Núñez ultimately replaced on the roster, in 2018. Before that, Boog Powell was the first in 1964, according to STATS.
“When he gets hot, he's pretty hot,” Hyde said. “When he stays on the ball and has a middle-of-the-field approach, that's when his homers stay fair to left field. He's just got a ton of power, and his swing plays for the home run, and he's got 20 at 25 years old. Pretty cool.”
Switch-hitters swinging it
The Orioles' three switch-hitters — Jonathan Villar, Santander and Stevie Wilkerson — did most of the damage Saturday once Núñez's homer broke the deadlock.
Villar scored three times and had a pair of hits to extend his hitting streak to nine games and raise his average to .262. Santander had three hits and a pair of RBIs and Wilkerson's second hit of the game was a solo home run in the ninth inning, his seventh of the season.