While the 2014 season as a whole wasn't one to write home about for Padres fans, it was loaded with outstanding pitching performances, some of which actually received run support. For the latest edition of the 2014 SB Nation MLB Awards, you are tasked with choosing the season's top pitching appearance from the following nominees:
Andrew Cashner's one-hitter
On April 11, in his third start of the season, Andrew Cashner pitched his second one-hit shutout in just his fourth start since his first one. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Rajai Davis singled with one out. Davis stole second and third, but was stranded as Cashner allowed his second and final walk, which set up an inning-ending double play. Cash cruised perfectly through the final three innings, and punctuated his gem by striking out Miguel Cabrera, the reigning American League MVP, for the twenty-seventh out. That was Cashner's eleventh strikeout of the game, extending his career high that he set with his tenth of the game.
Jason Lane's MLB pitching debut
In the same game in which Jesse Hahn made his major league debut, 37-year-old Jason Lane stole the spotlight with a debut of his own. Nearly seven years after his last game in the big leagues, the former outfield saw his transformation come to fruition. The fact that he made it back to the bigs at all was tremendous in and of itself, but what he did once he got there ensured that the eventual movie about him won't need embellishment.
Lane entered the game with two out and two on in the top of the fourth and struck out Neil Walker, the first batter he faced, to get out of Hahn's jam. If that weren't enough, Lane came back out for three more full innings and retired every batter he faced; he brought his performance full circle by striking out Walker for a second time, this time to end the seventh inning.
Alex Torres makes headwear history
Allowing a run on two walks and a hit in one inning of work doesn't seem like the formula for a top pitching appearance nominee, but Alex Torres's June 21 outing will be remembered far longer and by more people than any of the other candidates on this list. That's because that was the day that Torres became the first major league player to wear the newly developed IsoBlox cap, which was developed to provide pitchers with at least some level of protection against head-headed comebackers.
It takes a lot of guts to be the first to do anything, especially something that will spawn 82,138 variations of four jokes that weren't that funny to start with, but Torres stepped up and put function over fashion. And while his head is the one being protected, Torres doesn't wear the padded lid only for himself. As he said when his history-making hat was put on display at the Hall of Fame, "It's a good step forward to send a message to pitchers and all of baseball about safety, and I want to be a messenger."
Odrisamer Despaigne's MLB debut
Just two days after Alex Torres's hat made its big league debut, all of Odrisamer Despaigne's uniform made its. In the team's first move after firing Josh Byrnes the day before, Despaigne was called up from El Paso to start in place of Cashner, who ultimately wound up on the disabled list. Despaigne, who was signed as an international free agent just a month and a half earlier, kept San Francisco batters off-balance for seven shutout innings. He forced the Giants to put the ball in play with only two singles and two doubles to show for it, walking nobody and striking out just Hunter Pence.
Jesse Hahn was cruising for five innings on August 11, but ran into trouble in the sixth. He allowed two singles and a homer without recording an out, and Nick Vincent was called into action. Vincent closed out the inning without any further incident, and came back out for another perfect frame in the seventh. He struck out three batters in that time, including the last one he faced. Kevin Quackenbush took over in the eighth and struck out the side; Joaquin Benoit did the same in the ninth to earn the save. Together, the three relievers combined for four perfect innings and nine strikeouts, including the final seven Rockies batters.
Andrew Cashner pitched yet another complete-game shutout on September 15, this time allowing a whopping two hits and walking one batter while striking out "just" seven batters. While this appears at first to pale in comparison to his earlier 11-strikeout, one-hit shutout, he bested it in efficiency. Cashner used just 92 pitches to achieve his second shutout of the season, 16 fewer than it took him against Detroit. This was Cashner's
first second career "Maddux", a term coined by Jason Lukehart to describe a complete-game shutout requiring fewer than 100 pitches.
Tim Stauffer's goodbye?
On September 23, in the Padres' penultimate home game of the year, Tim Stauffer made what could prove to be his last appearance at Petco Park as a member of the Padres. Stauffer, who was the Padres' top pick in 2004 and has never been with another organization, became a free agent at season's end. While he hasn't signed with another club yet, he has expressed a desire to be a starter again, and that's not in the cards for him in San Diego.
If Stauffer doesn't come back, he went out on a high note. He entered that Tuesday night game against the Rockies in the top of the fifth inning in relief of Robbie Erlin, and promptly struck out Drew Stubbs on three pitches. After Justin Morneau hit a lazy first-pitch fly ball to Tommy Medica in left field for the second out, Michael Cuddyer worked the count full before swinging through strike three. After the Padres stranded two runners in their half of the fifth to leave the score 2-0 in Colorado's favor, Stauff took the mound for his second inning of work. Wilin Rosario led off and grounded out to shortstop Alexi Amarista, then Brandon Barnes lined out to Cameron Maybin, bringing Mr. Laura McKeeman to the plate. Stauffer struck Rutledge out on three pitches, and walked off the Petco Park mound in a Padres uniform for the last time... in 2014, at least.