For 71 minutes Saturday afternoon, Andrew Cashner was not scheduled to start for the Orioles. The threat of imminent weather and an eventual delay prompted manager Brandon Hyde to announce instead that right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong would start, so as to not waste any of the innings Cashner’s right arm could provide if the delay came in-game.
Instead, a 66-minute delay preceded the Orioles’ meeting with the Cleveland Indians, and after a brief dose of rain at Camden Yards, it was the Orioles pouring it on in support of Cashner in a second straight 13-0 victory.
The Orioles (24-58) became the first team in major league history to record consecutive shutouts by that wide of a margin, per STATS. Their back-to-back drubbings of the competitive Indians (44-38) gave them their first series victory in more than two months and their first consecutive victories in nearly the same span.
“It was kind of a cluster,” Cashner said, “but thank God the weather came when it did.”
A night after setting a season high in runs, Saturday marked the Orioles’ second straight double-digit run output after having just two double-digit efforts through their first 80 games. They also had only one shutout before Friday, entering this series with 13 defeats in the prior 14 games.
Saturday provided the Orioles’ first series victory since April 22-24 against the Chicago White Sox and first consecutive wins since May 4-6. It was also their first back-to-back shutouts since Sept. 2-3, 2016, as an Orioles pitching staff that has struggled for the better part of the year has now put together a scoreless streak of 19 innings.
Cashner (8-3) was at his best after being scratched less than an hour before the scheduled start time and announced again as the starter about the same amount of time before its official beginning. He put together his fourth straight quality start amid a June in which he has posted a 1.44 ERA. He retired the first 11 Indians before All-Star Carlos Santana’s two-out single in the fourth.
Cashner then didn’t allow a runner to reach second until the seventh. He stranded him there as he completed seven scoreless innings, using his changeup more than he has in any start this season against Cleveland’s lefty-heavy lineup. He held the Indians to 2-for-17 with three strikeouts against his changeup, which he used for 40 of his 98 pitches.
“I thought it was one of the best changeups I’ve had this season,” Cashner said.
That led to what Hyde coined “Cash's best start of the season.”
“It starts with starting pitching. There's no doubt about it,” Hyde said. “And John Means was phenomenal last night, and Andrew Cashner … His changeup was a plus-plus pitch against a mainly left-handed lineup and was able to locate his fastball and got a ton of ground balls to the right side off the left-handed hitters. Just did an amazing job of changing speeds.”
The Orioles’ lineup seemingly couldn’t stop scoring. Starting with a six-run fourth inning that broke open a 1-0 game, they scored multiple runs in four straight innings.
Hanser Alberto has risen to be among the American League’s batting average leaders by hitting well against lefties and against fastballs, but he put the Orioles on the board in the second with an RBI double off a slider from right-hander Zach Plesac (3-3).
It was the only run Plesac allowed through three innings while Cashner retired each Cleveland batter he faced in that time. But Anthony Santander led off the fourth with the 100th home run onto Eutaw Street in Camden Yards history, a day after Chance Sisco hit the 99th. Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini built the lead to 5-0 with run-scoring hits before Renato Núñez put a cap on the rally with a two-run home run to chase Plesac.
Mancini, who will potentially be announced as an All-Star for the first time in his career Sunday, trickled a bases-loaded single up the middle in the fifth to increase the lead to 9-0. Sisco and Núñez added two-run homers in the next two frames. Núñez’s second blast of the day came off Cleveland infielder Mike Freeman, who then pitched a perfect eighth.
“We've really pitched well the last two nights, obviously, and then we got a ton of great at-bats and a ton of really good swings,” Hyde said. “Just really good at-bats up and down the lineup.
“I thought we just did a lot of really good things offensively.”
Left-hander Tanner Scott pitched the eighth and ninth to preserve the shutout and secure the series victory after the Orioles had lost their previous 13 games in which they had a chance to win a series.
“We've had so many opportunities to win a series,” Hyde said. “There's a stretch that we won the first game of a series four or five series in a row, whatever it was, and just wasn't able to do it. To win a series obviously feels great. I just want our guys to play well, and I'm concerned about how we play, and I'm concerned about how we play the game. And the last two games, we've played really, really good baseball.”