3/31/2018 - The Baltimore Orioles lost to the Minnesota Twins Saturday night, 6-2. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)
Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner arrived in Baltimore with the reputation of being a groundball pitcher who could keep the ball in the yard. In fact, Cashner entered his Orioles debut Saturday night having allowed the third-fewest home runs per nine innings (0.81) last year among all major league ERA title qualifiers.
In Cashner’s introduction to hitter-friendly Camden Yards as an Oriole on Saturday night, he allowed three homers — all solo shots — and lasted five innings in a 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins in which the Orioles were hitless through 7 2/3 innings.
If Cashner’s recent numbers were any indication, there definitely was a Camden Yards effect Saturday night. Going into the game, Cashner hadn’t allowed more than two homers in any of his previous 42 starts, dating to July 8, 2016, when he allowed four homers against the Los Angeles Dodgers while pitching for the San Diego Padres.
“A little elevated,” Showalter said. “It’s only going to get better. Everything gets kind of magnified when you’re not getting hits. What did we walk, seven times tonight? That was good. It’s a positive. But their guy was pitching real well and obviously it gets magnified with the margin of error that their guy was making. But Cash felt good. He was going to throw at the most 85 [pitches] tonight, so got some things accomplished there. He’ll be more productive.”
Minnesota Twins right-handed pitcher Kyle Gibson threw 102 pitches in six innings against the Orioles on Saturday night, giving up no hits with five walks and six strikeouts.
On Saturday, the first two homers that Cashner allowed — a first-inning blast by Miguel Sanó and a third-inning shot by Jason Castro — came on sinkers, a pitch that Cashner has had success with throwing up in the zone but didn’t have their typical late break Saturday.
“I think my sinker arm-side was kind of flat,” Cashner said. “I think I needed to just do a better job of getting on top of it. But it’s not a great start, but there’s a lot to build off of.”
With the Orioles trailing 3-0, Max Kepler took a 1-1 curveball over the right-center field fence in the fourth inning.
All four extra-base hits off Cashner — the two homers and a pair of doubles off the bats of Joe Mauer and Kepler — came off sinkers.
On the night, Cashner allowed five runs — four earned — on six hits and two walks. He struck out five.
In Cashner’s final spring training tune up Monday in the Orioles’ exhibition game at Triple-A Norfolk, he had to get adjusted to colder temperatures after six weeks in temperate Florida heat, but Cashner said the cold Saturday wasn’t a problem.
“I don’t know if that was really a factor, I think it was more just getting on top of my sinker going arm-side,” Cashner said.
Cashner had five strikeouts over his first four innings, including back-to-back swinging strikeouts to end the third following Sanó’s RBI ground out. In that frame, Castro’s home run was followed by a Brian Dozier single and Mauer double to put two runners in scoring position.
Cashner then struck out Eddie Rosario on a high sinker and retired Logan Morrison on a curveball. Two of Cashner’s strikeouts came on sliders and two on sinkers.
He opened the fifth with back-to-back walks, prompting a visit from pitching coach Roger McDowell, but then induced a 6-4-3 double-play ball from Sanó and a pop-up to third off the bat of Rosario to escape his final inning unscathed.