PHILADELPHIA -- As a measure of caution, the Padres have decided to curtail Andrew Cashner's innings in September instead of simply shutting him down for the rest of the season.
That's starting to look more and more like a wise decision.
Cashner allowed two runs in 7 2/3 innings on Tuesday as the Padres scored early and often on their way to an 8-2 victory over the Phillies before a crowd of 29,242 at Citizens Bank Park.
"I feel stronger than I did at the beginning of the year," Cashner said. "I told myself at the All-Star break that I was going to cut loose and pitch with a little more fire."
He's done just that lately, going 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA in his last 10 starts. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in his last four starts.
Cashner, pitching on nine days rest, the first strike by the organization to watch his innings this month, was equal parts dominant and efficient early, retiring the first 11 batters he faced. He allowed one run over the first seven innings before reliever Dale Thayer allowed an inherited run to score.
"He pounded the strike zone with the fastball and slider," said Padres manager Bud Black. "... He was in control right from the start."
Cashner allowed the two runs on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts while throwing 107 pitches. After the game, Cashner gushed over the improvement in his slider.
"It's been a huge pitch for me," said Cashner, who lowered his ERA to 3.40. "I feel like I've made good strides with it since the All-Star break."
Cashner allowed one run over the first seven innings, but was dinged for a run in the eighth inning as Thayer walked pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez with the bases loaded.
The eight runs the Padres scored were the most since they scored nine in a 10-9 loss in 10 innings to the D-backs on August 27. The runs came in bunches, too. There were three runs in the fourth inning against Phillies pitcher Tyler Cloyd and then four more in the fifth inning.
"The pitches were up," Cloyd said. "I made a lot of mistakes, pitches getting too much of the plate. Not really mixing it up too much. I definitely need to throw a lot more off-speed pitches. They were on the fastball and cutter pretty much all night."
The Padres, who have won their last four games, welcomed the offensive outburst. During their recently completed six-game homestand -- in which they went 5-1 -- then won those games by three, one, one, one and three runs.
"It was nice to put a few hits together and put a crooked number up there [scoreboard]," said Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who had his first three-hit game since July 7. "It seems like we've been working hard to score runs lately. It was good swings and guys having a good approach."
Leading 1-0 in the fourth, the Padres got singles by Jedd Gyorko -- who also had three hits -- and Kyle Blanks before Ronny Cedeno lined an RBI single to left field. Rene Rivera then drove a two-run double to the gap in right-center field.
"We had some good at-bats, some groundballs that got through. But tonight, we were swinging at strikes and laid off balls. Our guys kept the momentum going," Black said.
In the fifth inning, the Padres got five consecutive hits to open the floodgates. That allowed them to chase Cloyd from the game. All told, Cloyd allowed seven runs on nine hits in four innings.
That was more than enough for Cashner, who allowed a home run to Cody Asche on a changeup in the fifth inning, but little else.
"What impressed me the most was it looked like he had a good breaking ball and he was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes," Headley said. "When he has the off-speed pitches going with that fastball, that's tough."
As for watching Cashner's workload -- he's at 159 innings this season, compared to a combined 69 2/3 innings a year ago -- he's not too concerned about it.
"I don't feel like it's the end of the season," he said.
His manager couldn't disagree with that based on the way Cashner tamed the Phillies lineup Tuesday.
"He's pitched very well as of late," Black said. "This was another great outing for Cash."
Cashner is scheduled to make his next start on Monday in Pittsburgh.