Since struggling in his Opening Day start at Yankee Stadium, Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner has generally been a much more formidable pitcher.
Back in the Bronx ballpark for the first time since that first start, Cashner’s strong six innings weren’t enough to outduel Domingo Germán in a 3-1 defeat in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees.
But by continuing his run of success, Cashner further established himself as a worthwhile potential trade piece should the Orioles find an interested contender seeking starting pitching in the summer.
With six innings of two-run ball Wednesday, Cashner has a 3.25 ERA in eight starts since Opening Day, going at least five innings in all but one start and at least six innings in four starts.
“I think I’ve got a good feel right now,” Cashner said. “I think it’s just a full mix of pitches. I’m really working on my curveball, so I think that’s a big part. I think it comes down to fastball command and working both sides of the plate.”
He struck out the first four Yankees he faced Wednesday before issuing a four-pitch walk to Kendrys Morales, who was making his New York debut after the Oakland Athletics designated him for assignment and entered 7-for-13 against Cashner with three home runs. A hard lineout from Clint Frazier preceded another strikeout.
Cashner regularly flexed high velocity in the first couple of frames, with his fastball exceeding 96 mph on occasion. He finished the outing with an average four-seamer velocity of 94.5 mph, his highest in a start this season.
“I thought it was some of the best stuff he’s had all year,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “From the first inning, he was 95-96 [mph] with a really good breaking ball, and he just really, really pitched well against a really tough lineup. I just thought it was a really good effort.”
He didn’t allow a hit the first time through New York’s lineup, and the Yankees’ first hit actually hit him.
DJ LeMahieu’s 104 mph drive bounced once before striking Cashner in the left hand, bending his thumb back, and ricocheting toward the third-base line, where Cashner couldn’t discover it in time to get the out. He bent at the waist, clearly in pain, as he was checked on by the Orioles’ medical staff. After a handful of warmup pitches, he remained in the game.
“It’ll be all right,” Cashner said. “It’s a little swollen.”
Yankees first baseman Luke Voit did not allow Cashner to resettle, smacking his next pitch to left-center for an RBI double to break the scoreless tie.
Falling behind 3-1 in the count to the first batter he faced in the fourth, Cashner allowed a solo home run to Gleyber Torres, his third of the doubleheader. In 18 career games against the Orioles, Torres has nine home runs.
The Yankees would not harm Cashner again, however. A two-out single by Voit and another walk to Morales were the only base runners he allowed after Torres’ home run. Hyde said he believes Cashner has improved start to start as the season has gone on.
“I think from Opening Day till now you’re seeing his fastball velo spike and the command is better, and I love the way he’s attacking hitters,” Hyde said. “Great tempo, multiple pitches for strikes, facing tough lineups. He’s doing a great job.”
Germán handles Orioles
For as well as Cashner pitched, he was outdone by Germán, the Yankees’ 26-year-old right-hander.
Germán retired the first eight Orioles before Joey Rickard doubled into left field. Germán won their most important meeting, though, getting Rickard to ground out with the bases loaded to complete his seven one-run innings.
Germán finished with eight strikeouts and held the Orioles hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position; Baltimore finished the doubleheader 0-for-13 in such situations.
The Orioles’ only run against Germán came in the fifth, when Stevie Wilkerson and Rio Ruiz began the frame with consecutive singles off the right-field wall before Hanser Alberto hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Britton, Yankees ’pen shut down O’s
Tasked with pitching in both legs of a doubleheader against his former club, Zack Britton delivered among a brilliant day for the Yankees bullpen.
In the first game, New York relievers retired all but two of the 13 batters they faced with seven strikeouts, with Britton, the Orioles’ longtime closer, pitching a perfect eighth to set up Aroldis Chapman.
Britton replaced Germán in the latter game and immediately gave up a single to Jonathan Villar, who took second on an error by right fielder Mike Tauchman. But the left-hander recovered, striking out Dwight Smith Jr. and Trey Mancini before getting Renato Núñez, pinch hitting for Chris Davis, to ground out to end the frame.
Chapman again took over for the ninth and recorded his second save of the day.
“Their bullpen, they’re stacked,” Orioles catcher Austin Wynns said after the first game. “Bottom line. A through Z.”
The Orioles’ bullpen, meanwhile, was also fairly effective. Branden Kline pitched two scoreless innings in the first game, and although Shawn Armstrong allowed his first run as an Oriole in the second game’s seventh inning, Miguel Castro and Paul Fry combined for a scoreless eighth.
In his past seven outings, Castro hasn’t allowed a run while striking out 10 in 7 2/3 innings.