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Cashner strikes out five in four innings

SAN FRANCISCO -- The text message from his manager landed on Andrew Cashner's phone about 1 p.m. PT on Saturday afternoon.

"He told me to be ready to start," Cashner said.

When the Padres scheduled starter, Clayton Richard, fell ill to a virus that kept him bedridden, the team called upon Cashner, the hard-throwing righty who had pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this season.

Not anymore, though.

Cashner didn't make many mistakes, and even the two-run home run he allowed to Pablo Sandoval was not that bad of a pitch, though the Padres couldn't muster anything against Tim Lincecum and three Giants relievers in a 2-0 loss before a sold-out crowd of 41,995 at AT&T Park.

"Their guy was throwing well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Cashner. "He was throwing hard and he had a good breaking ball going."

His guy wasn't bad, either.

Lincecum (2-0) looked like the Lincecum of old, mixing in a tantalizing split-finger fastball that proved next to impossible to fish out of the dirt, and a dandy changeup and slider that kept the Padres (5-12) guessing and frustrated.

"I thought that his split-finger was as good as I've seen in a while," said Padres third baseman Chase Headley. "He was getting in spots where there wasn't damage to be done."

Funny, because Cashner found one of those tough-to-hit spots himself in a critical sequence on Saturday, when he threw a fastball inside to Sandoval, who had fouled off six pitches to that point.

But Sandoval, who has a strike zone as wide as San Francisco Bay, turned on the ball and powered it over the wall in right field for a 2-0 lead that stood, one of just three hits the Giants (11-7) managed.

Afterward, there was no debating the pitch selection by Cashner, just the result.

"I thought I threw the ball well. The home run didn't beat me, the walk [to Marco Scutaro] did," Cashner said. "I thought I jammed him [Sandoval], but it got it up in the air."

San Diego manager Bud Black, in his seventh season, has a deeper understanding of what Sandoval can do with a ball -- no matter where it's thrown.

"I thought it was more in than middle. He's a talented hitter. He's a slasher. It was a mid-90s fastball in on the hands," Black said. "It was a good pitch. ... But he's got great hand-eye coordination. He's that gifted as a hitter."

To be sure, there wasn't much hitting to be had, which is why the Padres were able play their shortest game of the season -- two hours and 22 minutes.

That's not to say the Padres didn't have their chances.

In the third inning, the Padres loaded the bases against Lincecum on a single by Alexi Amarista, a walk to Everth Cabrera and finally an infield single with two outs by Will Venable. That brought up Headley, who was playing in his third game back from the disabled list.

Headley got ahead in the count, 3-1, and was looking for a pitch out over the plate to drive somewhere, knowing that Lincecum had to come after him. Instead, the switch-hitting Headley, batting left-handed, got a fastball in that he couldn't do much with.

What Headley did was a roll routine ground ball to the second baseman.

"The pitch was on the black," Headley said. "In hindsight, I wish I wouldn't have swung at it. That was a tough pitch to handle."

The Padres put runners on first and second base with one out in the eighth inning on a Cabrera double and a walk to Headley. Facing Giants' reliever Santiago Casilla, Yonder Alonso rolled over on a fastball down and away for a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.

By the time that happened, Cashner was long gone. He lasted four innings, throwing 65 pitches (with 39 for strikes). He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out five. Not bad work on short notice, filling in for Richard, who didn't miss a single start last season.

Black is hopeful Richard will pitch on Tuesday against the Brewers. As for Cashner, he has earned himself at least one more start and possibly more.

"I saw a crisp fastball, he was efficient overall ... a lot of positive signs," Black said. "He did a good job on short notice. He didn't do anything to not make us think about [giving him another start]. But long range, we see Andrew as a starter."

Cashner said the short notice didn't bother him in the least. After being put on call early in the day, he had it confirmed that he would start once he arrived at the ballpark around 3 p.m. There was but one subtle difference to starting.

"I'm excited I get to hit, but other than that, it's just another day," he said.

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