It has been a wild roller coaster ride for Phillies starting pitcher Alec Asher over the last 14 months or so. Asher was the forgotten player that came over in the Cole Hamels trade at least year’s deadline, but he managed to make his way up to the big leagues by September, although he struggled in his few starts. Along with his struggles and the fact that the Phillies added some starting pitching in the offseason, Asher began the year with Double-A Reading. Asher started off the year very well and quickly received a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Asher continued his success in Triple-A, but then he tested positive for PEDs and suspended for 80 games. Asher was recently reinstated over the past week and after a few rehab starts (and the seasons of other young pitchers being cut short), Asher joined the Phillies rotation for the rest of the season.
Asher made his season debut against the Nationals tonight, and he was excellent. Asher pitched six shutout innings for the Phillies, and got plenty of run support to pick up his first win of the season. The Phillies would score all four of their runs in the third inning, with three of them coming off one swing by Ryan Howard. The Nationals (82-58) were able to score just one run as the Phillies (63-77) would go on to defeat the Nationals in the series opener by a score of 4-1.
As I mentioned, the Phillies scored all four of their runs in the top of the third inning, with all of them also coming via the long ball. Peter Bourjos kicked things off with a solo home run on the first pitch in the third inning that went off the left field foul pole. Howard added to the Phillies’ lead with a two out, three-run homer to center field that made it a 4-0 game. The Nationals were only able to push across one run and it came on a sac fly by Daniel Murphy in the bottom of the 8th inning. No Phillies player was able to record multiple hits in tonight’s game, but Howard’s 21st homer of the year was all the offense Asher and the bullpen needed tonight.
Asher’s six shutout innings was a real boost to a Phillies pitching staff that has struggled in the second half of the season. Asher was the first of three consecutive nights in which the Phillies’ starting pitcher will have been acquired in the Hamels trade. Edubray Ramos pitched a scoreless seventh inning, while Hector Neris allowed the lone Nats run to come across in the eighth inning. Jeanmar Gomez picked up his 36th save of the season as he pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth inning. Nationals starts A.J. Cole suffered the loss in tonight’s game as he allowed four runs on five hits in just five innings of work. Cole falls to 1-2 on the year with a 4.56 ERA after tonight’s loss.
The Phillies and Nationals will play the second of four games tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. Phillies rookie Jake Thompson (1-5, 6.48 ERA) will take on the reliable Tanner Roark (14-8, 2.89 ERA) of the Nationals. Thompson’s overall numbers are less than impressive, but his last two starts have generated a lot of excitement that this might is the pitcher Thompson really is. In his last two starts, Thompson has a 1.93 ERA and has pitched seven solid innings in each of those games. Thompson and the Phillies will look for their fourth win and their last five games as they continue their series against the division leaders tomorrow night at Nationals Park.
Photo: Tristan Loper (via Flickr.com)