Hard knocks take their toll on Cashner

Streak of 21 home starts allowing fewer than three runs halted

Hard knocks take their toll on Cashner

SAN DIEGO -- Of all the distinctions Andrew Cashner could have hoped to hold this season for the Padres, being the Major League leader in losses on May 16 certainly wasn't one of them.

But if there's any semblance of solace, it's that Cashner has pitched better than his 1-7 record indicates, and his outing on Saturday night against the Nationals was yet another chapter in his season of hard knocks.

Cashner allowed three runs in the first inning, and four overall in six innings, as the Padres fell to the Nationals, 4-1, at Petco Park.

Cashner has a 3.24 ERA to show for his first eight starts in a season that might look far different had his defense -- he's been saddled with 10 unearned runs -- been better or if his teammates backed him with some runs.

Black on Padres' 4-1 loss

In his last five starts, the Padres have scored two runs while he was in the game. That he's lost to Zack Greinke (Dodgers), Dallas Keuchel (Astros) and, Saturday, Max Scherzer, certainly hasn't helped in terms of run support.

Does he feel snakebit?

"Not so much. I think I maybe am trying to do a little too much out there," he said. "I'm just not making pitches. I think that's what it comes down to. But, yeah, it's tough. You want to be the guy to pick guys up in here when things aren't going well."

The Nationals got to Cashner early for three runs before the sold-out crowd of 45,282 had the chance to get settled for the night. Cashner said his slider, which has been a big pitch for him this season, wasn't nearly as sharp as it needed to be in that opening frame.

"I just made a bunch of mistakes in the first. I didn't really execute. I've got to be better," he said. "I felt I didn't get going in the first."

Rookie catcher Austin Hedges, catching Cashner for the second time, felt the same, especially about the crispness of the slider.

"I don't think he was quite throwing his slider with conviction. I don't think he had as good of a feel for it in that inning. But the adjustments he made throughout the game were outstanding," Hedges said. "They weren't touching his fastball."

Cashner's Major League-leading run of 21 consecutive starts at Petco Park allowing two earned runs or fewer came to an abrupt halt. But he pitched better thereafter, allowing just one run over the final five innings.

"Usually when he pitches here, good things happen," Padres manager Bud Black said.

Cashner already has as many losses as he did last season -- and it's still mid-May. Black said he doesn't foresee this streak continuing.

"He wants to win like every other pitcher. ... Every year is different. Mentally, he's competing. His day will come when he gets his wins," Black said.

"He's too good of a pitcher to have what his record looks like now."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.