LOS ANGELES -- There was little trepidation on Bud Black's part in the seventh inning on Saturday as he watched from the dugout as starting pitcher Andrew Cashner worked through a thorny situation while balancing the highest pitch count of his professional career.
Worried? Not the Padres' manager, even though going into the game, Cashner had more than doubled his innings output from last season and that there was a plan already in place for September to curtail his workload after this start.
This was by no means Cashner's swan song for the regular season. But Black wanted to make sure, at the very least, that Saturday belonged to him.
"It was his game to win or lose," Black said of Cashner. "I thought that he still had a lot of bullets left."
Just not enough to hold off the Dodgers, who can seemingly do no wrong, as Mark Ellis' pinch-hit RBI single off Nick Vincent in the bottom of the eighth inning gave them a 2-1 victory over the Padres in front of a sold-out crowd of 53,121 on a sticky and sweaty night at Dodger Stadium.
The game, like many in the second half, ultimately belonged to the Dodgers (80-55). But in a big picture kind of way, the Padres felt Cashner's performance -- Saturday, and really the entire season -- was the biggest winner of all.
"I haven't thrown that many pitches before and for Skip to show the confidence in me to let me do that ... that was great," Cashner said after his seven-inning, 119-pitch performance. "It's been a huge year for me."
Cashner has now thrown 151 1/3 innings this season, far ahead of his workload from last season (69 2/3 innings). Chances are he won't throw for another 10 or so days, as the Padres don't intend to shut him down, but rather limit his innings in the final month of the season.
All told, he allowed 10 hits in the seven innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Not that he was showing any wear and tear against the Dodgers, as he took a shutout into the seventh inning before Adrian Gonzalez went down and got a pitch and punched it into center field to tie the game.
"It was a sinker down," Cashner said. "I don't know how he lifted that ball. They've got a good lineup. And late in the game, I've got to be better than that."
Cashner's velocity was up on Saturday in the high 90s and he even hit 100 mph on occasion. His slider, a pitch he's worked to develop during the season, was a weapon for him.
"He's impressive. Early he was pitching out of the bullpen and he started in San Diego against us and he was, like, wow," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Tonight he hung in there, changed speeds and used his pitches. You've got to throw him in the group of young starters with great stuff."
The 119 pitches were a career-high for Cashner -- by far. He threw 108 his last time out against the Cubs and reached 107 pitches on four separate occasions. He lowered his ERA to 3.45 on Saturday.
"I just told myself it was a playoff atmosphere and to keep making my pitches," Cashner said.
It felt like it in that seventh inning, when Cashner allowed singles to Jerry Hairston Jr. and Carl Crawford to start the frame. He then struck out Yasiel Puig on a high fastball, the third time Cashner retired the rookie. Facing Gonzalez, Cashner threw the pitch he wanted, where he wanted. Gonzalez hit it anyway.
In the eighth inning, Vincent allowed a leadoff double to Skip Schumaker, who then moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Tim Federowicz. Ellis then singled to center field for the go-ahead run.
Cashner wasn't the only starting pitcher to throw well. Chris Capuano, rumored to be in the fringe of losing his spot in the rotation, allowed one run -- a Ronny Cedeno home run in the fourth inning -- on eight hits in seven innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.
"We bunched some hits together, but couldn't score," said the Padres' Jedd Gyorko. "It's a shame that we couldn't get a few more runs for Cash."
The Padres nearly got another run in that fourth inning. After Cedeno's home run, Rene Rivera lined a double to right field. He then tried to score on a single to right field by Cashner, but was thrown out at the plate on a strong throw by Puig, who has seven outfield assists in 78 games.
"They've still got to make a play," Black said. "[Puig] had to go a little to his left. He has to make a play ... and he did. You can't guarantee another hit with two outs."