Jeff Smith 11 a.m., March 1
In six innings, Andrew Cashner made only one mistake, otherwise eighteen Astros hitters would have gone down in order. In the second inning, Cashner walked Houston catcher Jason Castro, but otherwise did not allow a hit.
In the seventh inning with one out, Cashner gave up a single to Carlos Lee, and on the tenth pitch of Brian Bogusevic's at-bat, Bogusevic belted a 98 miles per hour fastball over the right field wall. With 101 pitches thrown, Cashner's night was then over. But in the ninth inning, an unlikely hero emerged and Cashner's brilliant effort wasn't wasted, as the Padres beat the Astros Thursday night, 7-3.
Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel also pitched well, giving up only one run on four hits with four walks in six innings. The run came in the top of the third inning, as Chase Headley belted a 2-0 fastball over the left field wall, and the Padres led 1-0.
The lead held until the bottom of the seventh inning, when the home run by Bogusevic put the Astros on top, 2-1. Andrew Cashner then gave way to reliever Luke Gregerson, who struck out Chris Johnson and then Jason Castro lined out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Padres reliever Nick Vincent made his major league debut. Vincent walked J.D. Martinez and then gave up a single to Scott Moore, Martinez taking third. With Houston's Matt Downs pinch-hitting, Vincent uncorked a wild pitch, plating Martinez and giving the Astros an insurance run.
But in the top of the ninth inning, the Padres did something they haven't done since 2003. Trailing 3-1 in the last frame with Brett Meyers pitching for Houston, John Baker pinch hit for Nick Hundley and doubled to left field. Will Venable grounded out, but Mark Kotsay then singled to left field, Baker to third base. Cameron Maybin ran for Kotsay, and after an error by Astros third baseman Chris Johnson, Baker scored, with Logan Forsythe safe at first base and Maybin at second base.
Chase Headley then singled to load the bases. When Meyers hit Carlos Quentin with an 0-2 cut fastball, Maybin scored and the game was tied 3-3. Then, after Jesus Guzman struck out swinging, the smallest of the Padres did the biggest damage.
Alexi Amarista is listed at five feet and seven inches tall, but that had to have been measured with two-inch spikes on his feet. With the bases loaded, Amarista turned on a Meyers slider left up in the zone and drove it over the right field wall just a few rows back. For Amarista, his first home run in the bigs was a grand slam, only the fifth Padre to ever accomplish that feat.
Huston Street set the Astros down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and the Padres earned a split of the four-game series.
For Cashner, bringing a no-hitter into the seventh inning with a high pitch count could have been dicey had he not given up a hit in that inning. When asked, Cashner acknowledged that manager Buddy Black would have faced a tough decision whether to allow Cashner to pitch and attempt to become the first Padre to achieve a no-hit game.
The Padres are the only team in Major League Baseball to not have a no-hitter. The Padres still do not have any player who has hit for the cycle, either.
So far as the future of Andrew Cashner as a starter, there is no sure way of telling how his career will unfold. But Cashner certainly did get off to a good start in what he considers his first true start as a major league pitcher. At least, after one start, his future certainly looks promising.
It was almost four years ago to the day (June 30th, 2008), the last time the Padres scored six-or-more runs in the ninth inning to win a game. In Colorado, their next stop on this road trip, the Padres and Rockies were tied 8-8 when the Pads erupted for seven runs to eventually win the game 15-8.
Nick Vincent got the win in relief on Thursday, his first game pitched in the majors. Not bad, Nick. Especially giving up a run in the process.
Friday, the Padres open up a three game series in Colorado against the Rockies. Jason Marquis will start for the Padres against Jeff Francis for the Rockies. 5:05 PM PDST, on Fox Sports San Diego or radio on XX 1090 AM. If things fell right for the Padres, by Monday they could be out of the cellar in the National League West division. If.
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