SAN DIEGO: Reacting to a bunt by opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright, Andrew Cashner charged off the mound, fielded the baseball near the third-base line, twirled and fired a strike to first base. One out.
One problem: In the heat of the moment, the Padres right-hander had passed on a chance at a force out at third. Now, the St. Louis Cardinals had a baserunner there and another on second. For a starting pitcher who regularly failed to navigate out of traffic last season, a critical test had arisen.
Cardinals leadoff man and two-time All-Star Matt Carpenter stepped to the plate. Cashner fell behind, 2-0. Four pitches later, strike three rocketed past Carpenter at 96 mph. Two outs.
The next batter, Stephen Piscotty, swung at the first pitch. A 95-mph sinker was redirected directly at second baseman Jemile Weeks. Inning over.
In Friday’s 4-1 victory over St. Louis, Cashner passed his test, throwing six innings of one-run ball. He was buoyed by a teammate who also turned in his best performance of the season: first baseman Wil Myers, who drove in three runs and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
The Padres (7-10) also had things bounce their way during a suspenseful sequence in the top of the seventh. Following a leadoff single by pinch-hitter Aledmys Diaz, Ruben Tejada sliced a hit down the right-field line. The ball skittered into foul territory, where it was corralled by Matt Kemp, who then attempted to nab Tejada at second. Instead, the throw hit the ground before the ground, the ball skipping past second baseman Jemile Weeks and went directly into the glove of Adam Rosales.
With Diaz breaking for home, the third baseman alertly whipped a laser to the plate. Catcher Derek Norris received the ball and swiped down and to his left. Home-plate umpire Mike Everitt ruled Diaz out. Rosales let out a yell as a crowd of 30,074 roared its appreciation.
Myers homered in the first, lined a sacrifice fly in the third, singled in the fifth and doubled home a run in the seventh. After striking out at least once in the season’s first 16 games, he finished 3-for-3, raising his average to .304.
Rosales drove in the Padres’ other run, following Weeks’ two-out single in the fourth with a ringing, two-out double.
In the ninth, San Diego closer Fernando Rodney pitched around a one-out single to notch his third save.