SAN DIEGO -- Tommy Medica joined the Padres last September so he's only been around for a handful of Andrew Cashner's starts, though it sure hasn't taken him long to identify a few unmistakable traits in the Padres' starting pitcher.
"He's a bulldog when he's on the mound," Medica said. "And even after his at-bats, like if he pops up or strikes out, he takes it seriously. You want to do well when he's pitching because he's working so hard."
Cashner didn't have to sweat through the kind of anxious moments he had five days ago when he flirted with a no-hitter in a shutout of the Tigers, although he still had to work hard in the Padres' 4-2 victory over the Rockies before a crowd of 17,428 at Petco Park.
"When Cash is on the mound, you know he's only going to give up a few runs at most," Medica said. "So it was good we got some runs for him."
The Padres (7-8) gave Cashner four runs on eight hits, which proved enough as he improved to 2-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.27 by allowing one earned run over 7 1/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts. He was efficient and also got 11 ground-ball outs.
"You don't get a lot of opportunities against a guy like that. You hope somebody gets a big hit or you get one to drop when you do get some baserunners," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss.
"He's got a real hard sinker and it's easy to beat that thing into the ground. That's what he did. He got a double-play ball in that situation."
The Rockies (7-9) stressed Cashner on several occasions, but that sinker got him out of some tough spots. In the sixth inning, for instance, he allowed three singles with one out, two of the infield variety that Alexi Amarista, filling in for Chase Headley at third base, couldn't corral.
But Cashner ran a 1-2 sinker in on the hands of Jordan Pacheco, getting a 6-4-3 double-play ball to end the inning and the threat.
"I thought the sinker was good tonight," he said. "It's a pitch I've got to stick with. I got the double-play ball at one of the biggest parts in the game. It was one of those spots in the game where he [Pacheco] was going to get my best stuff."
Cashner was charged with an unearned run in the seventh inning, as Joaquin Benoit allowed an inherited runner to score. But that didn't take the shine off another strong outing for Cashner, who actually had to work from behind Wednesday after Justin Morneau turned a first-pitch changeup into a home run to center field in the second inning.
No no-hitter, no shutout, but Cashner kept grinding away as if none of that had happened.
"He had good fastball movement and location, and he really made some pitches," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He's pitching as the aggressor. I think that's always a good thing."
Trailing 1-0 after the Morneau home run, the Padres answered with a run in the bottom of the second inning when Medica connected for his first home run of the season.
"That was big," Black said. "[Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa] has been tough on us over the years. He's a solid pitcher. I think that home run by Tommy swung the momentum back to us."
The Padres scored twice in the fifth inning off De La Rosa, as a run scored on a passed ball. Chris Denorfia then lined a double down the right-field line to make it 3-1. Denorfia had a run-scoring single in the seventh inning for a 4-1 lead.
"I think he's one of the most underrated players in the National League," Cashner said of Denorfia.
The Padres certainly feel like they've got one of the top pitchers in the National League, one who is still experiencing growth as a pitcher, refining his offerings and still learning the league and its hitters.
There's no denying the stuff, though.
"Cash understands that it's a long season, a long haul," Black said. "He's got to continue to give us a performance that keeps us in games and pitch to the level he expects of himself. His challenge is going to be to refine his game, keep on top of his fastball, his slider and don't lose a feel for his changeup."