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DET@SD: Cashner fans 11 in one-hit shutout

SAN DIEGO -- The only Padres pitcher ever to face the minimum number of hitters in a game put 46 years of organizational history on alert again on Friday night.

This time, with Andrew Cashner blowing through the Tigers like popcorn in a zoo in San Diego's 6-0 win, Detroit leadoff man Rajai Davis blooped a single into shallow center field, over the outstretched glove of second baseman Jedd Gyorko with one out in the sixth inning. It would be the only hit the Tigers tallied on Friday.

Cashner fanned a career-high 11 hitters and became the first Major League pitcher this season to throw a shutout.

Another relatively near-miss for both Cashner, who one-hit the Pirates last September, and for the Padres, who remain the only organization never to have thrown a no-hitter.

Hey, relative is the operative word here -- given their quirky place in Major League no-hit history, anything into the sixth inning understandably sends folks around here into high alert.

Including Cashner.

"It's one of my goals," he said bluntly after the game. "I definitely want a no-hitter."

So he's aware of the Padres' dubious status in Major League no-hitter history?

"Totally aware."

Nevertheless, it was an utterly different sort of night, anyway, for Cashner, the quickly emerging San Diego ace. At 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his first two starts this season, Cashner had yet to see the Padres score even one run during any of his 12 innings of work.

That changed immediately in the opener of a 10-game homestand when Everth Cabrera rapped a single against Detroit starter Rick Porcello to begin the first inning, moved to third on a couple of ground balls and then scored when Gyorko blasted a triple into deep right field. Detroit outfielder Don Kelly smashed into the wall tracking it and stayed down for several minutes, but remained in the game.

Chase Headley followed with an RBI double making it 2-0 and allowing a club that had been struggling with runners in scoring position to breathe a bit early in a game for a change. Going into Friday night, the Padres as a team were batting just .133 (10-for-75) with runners in scoring position and ranked 14th in the National League with a .209 team batting average.

The Padres had led for only four of the 72 innings they played until Friday.

"That's tough, when you're playing catch-up all the time," manager Bud Black said. "That's tough."

Which is why, as he noted, the two-run first immediately energized a dugout in need of some good juju.

For Cashner, it was an utter bonanza, especially when his teammates tacked on two more runs in the sixth when Headley drove a Porcello slider over the right-field fence for his first home run of the season.

Not that the Padres needed all of those runs as Cashner made every pitch count -- literally, all the way into the ninth, which Cashner entered at 99 pitches.

"[Black] told me I had 12 pitches left, make 'em count," said Cashner, who finished at 108.

He needed only 88 to get through seven innings. And through the first five, he fanned six Tigers and induced seven ground-ball outs. It was a breeze for the right-hander.

"Tremendous movement with command," Black said. "He had command of the outside corner to right-handed hitters and did a good job of going inside to lefties."

Said Headley: "He was incredible. He had the kind of stuff where something special could happen. You saw it right from the beginning."

Through six, he positioned himself, as he did in Pittsburgh last September, to throw the first no-hitter in club history. The Padres had shared that distinction with the Mets until Johan Santana threw a no-no two summers ago.

Following Davis' bloop single and the 6-0 win, the Padres now have played a total of 7,176 games in their history since joining the National League as an expansion club in 1969 without a no-no.

Cashner, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo trade two Novembers ago, flirted with a no-hitter last Sept. 16 in Pittsburgh, taking one into the seventh inning before Jose Tabata broke it up.

Cashner that day wound up throwing only the 19th individual one-hitter in club history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cashner in that game became only the third Padres pitcher in the past 27 years to retire the first 18 hitters in a game. He tallied the club's 20th one-hitter on Friday.

Hope for a perfect game on Friday ended quickly, as Headley bounced a throw to first on Miguel Cabrera's grounder three batters into the game. Cashner followed that by walking Victor Martinez -- then retired the next 14 Tigers in order before Davis' sixth-inning blooper.

Given Detroit's potent lineup, Cashner rated his performance Friday night as even better than last September in Pittsburgh. One enormous key in the big right-hander's sharp turn toward becoming an ace since last year's All-Star break has been the development of his sinker.

Against the Tigers, he threw a fastball ranging from the mid-to-upper 90s, a two-seamer in the low 90s, a change at 83 and a curve at 78. He didn't throw many sinkers, but they were lethal.

"Something else the hitters have to worry about," he said.

If he keeps chucking the way he did Friday night, hitters are going to have to bring their own antacid tablets, they'll have so much to worry about.

"Teams are going to start looking hard at Andrew Cashner," Black predicted. "He's going to have to make his pitches.

"I think teams are really going to bear down and think, 'How are we going to beat this guy?'"

If the Padres give him the run support they did Friday night, the degree of difficulty is only going to sharply increase.

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