Andrew Cashner put forth an all-encompassing performance Monday night.
He had velocity. He had control. He had efficiency. Except for a solitary single, he had the makings of a perfect game.
Cashner settled for a complete-game, one-hit shutout in the San Diego Padres’ 2-0 win against the Pirates at PNC Park — a two-hour, 30-minute obstacle in the Pirates’ race to avoid a one-game wild-card playoff.
Cashner (10-8) retired the minimum 27 batters with 97 pitches. The only Pirates baserunner, Jose Tabata, reached on a single in the seventh and was erased in a double play two batters later.
In addition to touching 97 mph with his fastball, Cashner threw his off-speed pitches early in the count, keeping the Pirates off balance. His slider and changeup prevented the Pirates from hitting anything with authority.
“Velocity’s always going to speed you up a little bit,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Cashner entered the game with five consecutive outings lasting at least seven innings. Early on, his low pitch count illustrated how he can consistently pitch that deep. He retired the first nine batters he faced and needed only 34 pitches, 25 strikes, to do so.
He kept his foot on the gas in the fourth and fifth. Cashner had thrown 53 pitches through five innings, in which time he retired nine Pirates by way of ground balls compared to three on fly balls.
“Not only was the stuff sharp, but he was very efficient,” Hurdle said. “Throwing strikes all night long.”
Cashner carried his perfect game into the seventh until Tabata led off the inning with a single to right field.
Cashner, 27, is in his fourth major league season, but his first one as a starter on a regular basis. His strikeout rate decreased this season, but so did his walk and home run rates, contributing to what is now a 3.21 ERA in 30 games, 25 of them starts.
The Padres threatened from the fourth inning on and finally broke through in the seventh when a sacrifice fly drove home a run. An RBI single scored another.
The bottom of the Padres order set the table for Will Venable and Jedd Gyorko, who each drove in a run. Kyle Blanks, Ronny Cedeno and Rene Rivera, the sixth, seventh and eighth hitters, had two hits apiece.
A.J. Burnett did not pitch his cleanest outing after a strong three innings to open the game. He allowed two runs on three walks, six hits and two wild pitches through 62/3 innings.
“I felt fine,” he said. “They hit some balls in the hole.”
Burnett (8-11) matched Cashner inning for inning until the fourth. Chase Headley bounced a single up the middle and Burnett walked Tommy Medica. A wild pitch moved Headley to third, and Medica took second on a ball that dribbled in front of the plate after Russell Martin blocked it.
Burnett ran the count full on Blanks but struck him out looking with a low fastball over the outside corner, his 26th pitch of the inning.
Two more reached base in the fifth. Cashner bunted into a force-out. He stole second, one of three steals for the Padres, but Venable lined out to end the inning.
Burnett walked two in the sixth and allowed another steal, but two groundouts prevented the runners from scoring.
“A.J. threw punches all night long to the seventh,” Hurdle said. “He pitched a heck of a ballgame himself.”
Hurdle sent Burnett to the plate in the bottom of the sixth and back to the mound for the seventh. Cedeno and Rivera hit consecutive singles, and a fielder’s choice on Cashner’s bunt put runners on the corners. Venable flied out to center, scoring Cedeno. Andrew McCutchen’s throw bounced all the way to Burnett, backing up home plate, allowing Cashner to reach second.
On a 3-2 pitch, Burnett hit Alexi Amarista but Hurdle left Burnett in the game to face Gyorko.
“From my vantage point watching the game, he had retired Gyorko three times and struck him out twice,” Hurdle said.
Gyorko singled to left and Cashner scored to give the Padres a 2-0 lead.
“I gave up a few singles,” Burnett said. “That was it.
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