Pitch selection pays off in Cashner's great start

Pitch selection pays off in Cashner's great start

SAN DIEGO -- Coming off of the worst start of his career, and just one day after the Padres traded away staff ace Drew Pomeranz, Andrew Cashner needed to do something different.

Ditching his sinker and relying on a healthy diet of four-seam fastballs, that's exactly what Cashner did en route to striking out nine San Francisco batters and leading the Padres to a 4-1 win over the National League West-leading Giants.

"The other day in L.A. I left my sinker down in the middle too much," Cashner said of the July 8 start when he allowed eight runs over 2 2/3 innings. "I've always had good command of my four-seam, and that was kind of the game plan."

Throughout the 2016 season, Cashner has thrown his four-seam fastball as often as his sinker. According to BrooksBaseball, he entered Friday's game with 485 four-seams and 485 sinkers, throwing each pitch with the same frequency: 34.72 percent of the time.

During that sample, opponents slugged .514 against Cashner's sinker, compared to just .384 against the four-seam. Those numbers, combined with the results vs. the Giants on Friday night, make relying more heavily on the four-seam look like a pretty good idea.

Green on 4-1 win over Giants

"You saw him up to 99 mph today," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's been throwing his sinker a lot this year. I think the last outing it was kind of leaking back over the middle of the plate. He was paying the price for it, so we just went with the power four-seam today.

"... He was winning up in the zone consistently, beating good hitters up in the zone."

Forty-five of Cashner's 85 pitches (52.9 percent) Friday night were four-seam fastballs, while he tossed just three sinkers (3.5 percent). Five of the season-high nine strikeouts he recorded came via the four-seam, and three came from a slider that averaged 88 mph on the night.

"He can win up in the zone so easily a lot of times because he's got such life," Green said. "You don't see a lot of starters up to 99 mph. You just don't see that, so he's beaten good hitters up there."

Despite the success he had Friday, Green didn't say they would move away from the sinker going forward. It will be more about "picking and choosing who it matches up well with," and knowing where and how to attack different hitters.

Regardless of the specific pitch usage going forward, having a start like this one -- Cashner's best so far in 2016 -- during a season that has seen the 29-year-old suffer multiple injuries and the highest ERA (5.05) of his career is a big step forward.

"I thought I was finally able to get on top of the baseball," Cashner said. "[I've] kind of been dealing with some stuff this season and I finally felt good."

Carlos Collazo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @CarlosACollazo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.