Phillies Break Nationals Spell
By Matt Veasey
The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Washington Nationals in the opener of a four-game weekend series on Thursday night.
The Phillies snapped a nine-game losing skid against the division rival Washington Nationals in defeating the NL East leaders by a 4-1 score in the Thursday night opener of a four-game series at Nationals Park.
The star of the show for the visiting Fightin’ Phils was starting pitcher Alec Asher, who registered his first big league victory with a fine effort.
Asher (1-0) was making his 2016 debut with the Phillies after serving a PED suspension earlier in the season.
Upon his return, Asher put together a solid 4-2 record in a dozen starts across three minor league levels this season. He allowed just 48 hits over 64.2 innings in that span, with a 2.37 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, and a fine 46/10 K:BB ratio.
Asher had been acquired by the Phillies in the big Cole Hamels trade with Texas at the 2015 MLB trade deadline, but his big league debut last year had been a disaster.
In 2015, Asher was 0-6 across seven starts over which he yielded 42 hits in 29 innings with a 16/10 K:BB mark. Clearly he was not ready for the Majors at that point.
Last night was a different story. Armed with the confidence of his minor league successes, Asher overpowered the strong Nationals lineup.
The 24-year old righty allowed just two hits and one walk over his six innings, with 55 of his 75 pitches going for strikes.
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“He showed makeup,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said per MLB.com contributors. “Last year he looked like he was a little nervous most of the time and got rocked around. It was good to see him confident.”
The Phillies offense provided him with an early cushion, reaching Nats’ 24-year old rookie starter A.J. Cole for a four-spot in the top of the 3rd inning.
Peter Bourjos began the crooked inning by drilling a solo homer, his 5th of the season, to lead things off.
Then later in the frame with two outs and two men on base, Ryan Howard drove his 21st of the year and the 378th home run of this career out over the center field wall to make it a 4-0 Phillies lead.
The Nationals didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 8th inning when setup man Hector Neris, who may be tiring under the weight of a league-leading 71 games, allowed a run to score for the 3rd time in his last four appearances.
The Nats loaded the bases with one out against Neris. But with a pair of dangerous lefties coming up in Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, Neris buckled down and got out with minimal damage.
The reliever coaxed Murphy into flying out to deep left field for the 2nd out, with Stephen Drew tagging and scoring on the play. He then struck out Harper swinging at a couple of nasty, diving split-fingered fastballs.
The bottom of the 9th gave the hosts one more shot, but it was a typical Jeanmar Gomez effort. He allowed a hit, but also struck out a pair, registering his 36th Save by striking out Wilson Ramos to end the game.