Other than a rain-shortened shutout last week in Washington, every outing this month for Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner has been right at the six-inning, three-run threshold for a quality start.
He’s hit that mark on the button six times this season, and after doing so again in Monday's 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners, his 4.70 ERA indicates it's just about his average, too.
Yet the way he ended up there Monday — with a frenzied five-batter span that snapped him out of an early groove and put two of those runs on the board — was uncharacteristic for Cashner, who is typically in control and around the strike zone, and who otherwise pitched as well as he has all season.
“I didn't really command the baseball or anything,” Cashner said. “I thought it was big to bounce back and stay in the game. ... I don't know [what happened]. Just kind of lost the feel for the zone, what I wanted to do with the baseball. But I was able to work through it and keep making pitches.”
“He had a little trouble finding the strike zone there for a period, but he corrected it and kept us in the game,” manager Buck Showalter said.
After getting the first two outs of the second inning on six pitches, and the first five of the game on 18 overall, Cashner allowed a 1-2 single to Denard Span to set off a wild spell that would put the Orioles in an early hole. Chris Herrmann walked on four pitches. No. 9 hitter Guillermo Heredia walked on five.
Then Cashner went behind 3-0 to Dee Gordon on pitches he could have reasonably claimed to have caught the edge of the plate, fought back to a full count, but allowed a two-run single on a 96-mph fastball over the heart of the plate. Gordon stole second as Cashner was issuing a four-pitch walk to Jean Segura to load the bases again before Mitch Haniger popped out to end the inning.
It took 25 pitches for Cashner to record the final out of the inning, 17 of which were balls. He was squeezed by home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater against Gordon, and had a few more borderline pitches go in the hitter’s favor in that inning.
But the temporary loss of the plate ultimately accounted for a quarter of his 100 pitches, and it represented a departure from the ease with which he worked before and after it.
Cashner struck out three batters in the third inning around a one-out walk of Kyle Seager — his only three strikeouts of the game — got three outs on nine pitches in the fourth and ultimately retired 10 in a row before Span hit a towering home run just over the flag court railing in right field to put the Orioles down 3-1.
An inning before, Jonathan Schoop had made it a 2-1 deficit with his eighth home run of the season. Once Cashner completed his six innings, the Orioles loaded the bases and tied the game at 3 to take him off the hook.
Cashner was at an even 100 pitches when he gave way to reliever Miguel Castro, who loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single, allowed a run to score on a wild pitch and then saw a second cross the plate on a sacrifice fly.
Overall, it was the 31-year-old right-hander’s seventh quality start out of 15 total tries. But the Orioles have scratched together enough to win only four of those games.
“That's what I try to do every time I take the mound, just keep the team in the game and grind it out, no matter if it's pretty or ugly,” Cashner said. “Just try to get through the seventh. Maybe next time, I'll get through the seventh. I thought I got stronger as I went along. The breaking stuff was better, the off-speed was better. Something to build on as we go and keep moving forward.”