Andrew Cashner had it Friday night. The ascendant right-hander painted a masterpiece. His fastball was the brush, tailing across a canvas of would-be hitters.
For once, following an offensive display of offense, the Padres gained a sense of direction. Runners were put on base, with regularity. A season-high six came around to score, two on a sledgehammer of a home run by, of all people, Chase Headley.
Home again, the Padres will play the next nine games, too, at Petco Park. They will proctor an immediate test of whether a slow-starting team can replicate Friday’s 6-0 victory, whether it can upend a reputation. The questioning continues this weekend when Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer stalk the mound.
The Tigers’ Cy Young winners - one former, the other reigning - will follow a difficult act. In spinning his third and finest start of the season, Cashner was all but unhittable. Rajai Davis’ soft, sixth-inning single, past a leaping Jedd Gyorko, halted yet another a march on history.
Cashner settled for his second one-hitter since Sept. 16: 108 pitches, 70 strikes, two walks and that lousy single. He outscored Detroit on his own, singling in the seventh, then going first to third on Everth Cabrera’s single, then enacting a perfect slide at home plate.
That September day, Cashner struck out seven in blanking the playoff-bound Pirates.
"I think this was bigger," he said late Friday, after throwing the first complete-game shutout of the major league season. "That lineup, any of those guys can hit it out of the park."
"He had that kind of stuff where something special can happen," Headley said. "You could see it right from the beginning."
Cashner danced around Headley’s throwing error in the first - that allowing Miguel Cabrera to reach base - and the ensuing walk, the brief charity erased by an inning-ending strikeout of Austin Jackson.
It was the second of a career-high 11. He struck out the side in the third. He punched out a pair in the eighth, his two-seamer still blistering at 94 mph.
"I think early in the game my sinker was working," said Cashner, whose heater yo-yo-ed between 90 and 99 mph. "Then my breaking ball was probably the best it's been."
"He didn't throw many change-ups," Padres manager Bud Black said of Cashner's best secondary pitch, "but enough to keep them honest. He mixed in some sliders, but I think tonight was about movement of the fastball and the change in speeds.