Here’s what impressed me the most about Alec Asher on Friday night in the Orioles’ 3-2 win against the Boston Red Sox.
It’s not that he held a formidable, AL East lineup – albeit one without Dustin Pedroia – to three hits and two earned runs (one scored after he left the game) in 6 1/3 innings.
It’s not that the 25-year-old didn’t walk anyone or that he registered his third quality start in four tries.
It’s that this kid had his doors blown off in his last start against the Houston Astros – six earned runs in two innings – and bounced back with a gem against a division rival.
This kid is showing plenty of moxie, plenty of composure.
“That’s the thing you like about Asher. He ain’t scared,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He got right back in the fight and did a big job for us tonight.”
Asher succeeded while having to outduel reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, who gave up three runs in six innings. That’s a pretty tough task, and Asher attacked it like he attacked the strike zone Friday.
“Just don’t think about it too much. Just go out there and execute your plan and, you know, just pitch,” Asher said about not being intimidated by the big leagues. “Everyone’s been playing this game for a long time, and you kind of get in your own way by thinking about it too much.”
Honestly, it’s something you really don’t know if a player possesses until he is on the brightest of stages. When the Orioles acquired Asher from the Philadelphia Phillies for cash considerations in late March, they had no idea how he would perform against the Big Boys in the AL East.
“No, no. We live in a world where we’re all looking for dents in the armor, what does somebody know that we don’t know?” Showalter said. “This guy’s not 30 years old. He’s one of our younger guys on the staff. I just like his demeanor. He’s got a little you-know-what in the giddy-up.”
Consider this: Asher has made four starts as an Oriole: Twice versus the Red Sox and once each against the Astros and Toronto Blue Jays – not particularly easy matchups. And here are the four pitchers Asher has opposed in those starts: Marco Estrada, Chris Sale, Lance McCullers and Porcello – an intimidating quartet.
Asher pitched well in three of those.
“To face lineups like these guys, teams like them, and then to go up against Porcello, Cy Young last year. … It’s gotta be tough,” Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “This guy’s good. It’s fun to play behind him.”
Phillies fans on Twitter aren’t pleased
The Orioles have been on the other end of this plenty of times. And Asher has only made four starts for the Orioles – it’s impossible to make a judgment on his future right now.
But when I wrote Asher’s final line on Twitter, the Phillies’ faithful immediately jumped on the raw meat, criticizing GM Matt Klentak – a former Orioles’ executive – for shipping Asher away for cash.
“Internal screaming,” one wrote.
“Good call, Klentak. Kept Adam Morgan,” another tweeted.
“Yep, Phillies didn’t need him,” came a sarcastic response.
So, I guess it’s nice to see that it’s not just Orioles fans who immediately vent when one of their former players has a good game or streak elsewhere. I’ll have to remember that the next time I point out that Zach Davies pitched well or Parker Bridwell or Ariel Miranda.
Manny’s blast to the second deck in left
Several times I replayed the video of Manny Machado’s homer in Friday’s first inning to deep left field.
I wanted to make sure just how deep. By my review, it looked like it hit just beyond the signage on the second deck façade, which would mean it reached the second deck. And that’s what the Orioles later confirmed.
The blast — estimates varied widely from 430 to 465 feet — was the third to ever reach that spot in a game. The California Angels’ Rex Hudler did it in June 1995 and the Orioles’ Mark Reynolds in August, 2011.
And now Machado. Three in 25 years of games at Camden Yards. That’s something to remember for Machado and those who witnessed it.
“Yeah it is [cool]. It’s way out there,” Machado said. “But I think it kinda messed me up for the rest of the game, trying to do too much when that was a perfect swing that I did. I just tried to go back and take it down a notch and not do too much with the baseball.”