Orioles move into second place with 3-2 win (with quotes)

Manny Machado must be seeing the ball again. The Orioles didn’t see the same Alec Asher who started in Houston last weekend.

Asher-Throws-Black-Sidebar.jpgMachado followed his two-hit game last night with a 465-foot home run off Red Sox starter Rick Porcello in the bottom of the first inning. The ball reached the second deck in left field before falling to the seats below it.

Asher rose to the occasion, retiring 16 of the first 17 batters he faced in the Orioles’ 3-2 victory before an announced crowd of 33,193 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (29-24) have won four of their last five games and passed the Red Sox for second place in the American League East. They improved to 19-8 at home, 21-11 against the division, and can do no worse than a split of the four-game series.

It’s safe to assume that Asher is staying in the rotation, with Ubaldo Jiménez working in a relief role. And it’s wise to judge him on his entire body of work, as manager Buck Showalter did, and not just one really bad inning against the Astros.

Asher was charged with two runs and three hits in 6 1/3 innings, with no walks and five strikeouts. He threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes.

Mychal Givens replaced Asher with a runner on second base and one out in the seventh. He struck out Hanley Ramírez, but Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a run-scoring single to reduce the lead to 3-2. Caleb Joseph threw out Bradley trying to steal to end the inning.

Darren O’Day struck out two batters in the eighth, including Mookie Betts after a two-out walk to Sandy Leon, and Brad Brach recorded his 11th save.

Machado is the third player to put a ball in the second deck, following the Angels’ Rex Hudler on June 11, 1995 off Jamie Moyer and Mark Reynolds on Aug. 7, 2011 off the Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero.

Reynolds’ ball traveled an estimated 450 feet, so Machado had him beat.

Machado is the only player this season with three home runs of 460-plus feet, according to statcast. He has 12 hits against the Red Sox this season and five are home runs.

No one threw behind him tonight, but he still reacted as if he had a score to settle.

Machado’s last home run was May 20. He collected two hits last night, one of the infield variety, and may be easing out of his prolonged slump.

Seth Smith got the ball rolling, or flying, with his third career leadoff home run and his first as an Oriole. His shot to right field made him 10-for-23 with three doubles, a triple and a home run lifetime against Porcello.

It also ended an eight-pitch at-bat.

Joey Rickard has the Orioles’ other leadoff home run this year on May 8 versus the Nationals.

Jonathan Schoop singled with one out in the fourth and came around to score on Hyun Soo Kim’s double to right field, increasing the lead to 3-1 and giving Kim four RBIs on the season.

Asher turned in quality starts in his first two opportunities with the Orioles, but lasted only two innings Sunday afternoon in Houston. He allowed six runs and threw 42 pitches in the second and was done.

Showalter gave him another chance and Asher didn’t disappoint. He retired the first seven batters before Pablo Sandoval homered with one out in the third, then disposed of the next nine before Leon singled with one out in the sixth.

Betts grounded into a force and Andrew Benintendi struck out looking to end a nine-pitch at-bat that raised Asher’s count to 89.

Showalter said before the game that Asher didn’t have a feel for his curveball against the Astros and abandoned the pitch. Asher went exclusively with his two-seam fastball in the first inning tonight, retiring the side on 10 pitches, and needed only nine pitches to get through the second. He began to incorporate his other pitches, including the curveball and changeup

Asher froze Benintendi with a curveball.

Xander Bogaerts led off the seventh with a double to right field as Givens began to warm. Mitch Moreland fouled out to Joseph and Asher left to a standing ovation.

Note: The Orioles named Double-A Bowie left-hander Tanner Scott as the organization’s minor league Pitcher of the Month for May and Single-A Frederick shortstop Ryan Mountcastle as Player of the Month.

Here’s a sampling from Showalter:

On the difference in Asher: “Command of the fastball and curveball I thought was more of a factor. One of the things Roger (McDowell) and I talked to him about. It’s not like he’s throwing it every pitch, but especially with the left-handed hitters in the lineup tonight - there were five of them tonight - it’s a big pitch for a guy to defend himself with something like that. He had a lot of pitches working.

“I was really impressed that, there are little things you look at. Like after giving up the home run to (Sandoval), he comes right back and gets the next guy out and doesn’t walk him. How many times do you see people get fearful of the barrel and get out of the zone after that? Also, Ramírez hit a couple home runs off him last time. That’s the thing you like about Asher. He ain’t scared. He got right back in the fight and did a big job for us tonight. Probably threw him four or five more pitches than I wanted to, but he got into that seventh.”

On no walks: “Now that we’re talking about the last two nights with the lack of walks, we’re going to have, what, 15 tomorrow? No. It’s a big factor, especially in the American League with the power. If you don’t walk anybody and you catch the baseball, more times than not you look at that error column and there’s not many walks in that ballgame.”

On whether he knew about Asher’s composure: “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? 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. He likes competing, and he’s a watcher. He watches the game. He’s very approachable about anything. He has an opinion, but he doesn’t have all the answers. Putting you in the bullpen tonight, ‘I’ll be ready.’ Threw two innings, ‘Hey, I’m good tomorrow.’ And it’s not some false stuff like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be sent out.’ That part of it has been impressive. And I’ve said many times, if you have a good delivery, you’ve got a chance to repeat pitches. And Ash has got a good delivery.”

On giving Asher an early lead: “A guy like Porcello and a guy like last night and tomorrow, if you get a little pop at them early maybe, you’d better take advantage of it because they’re going to settle in. You look at 30 pitches in the first inning, that’s the difference. He’s pitching in the sixth inning. That’s what I take out of watching the really top-shelf starters. It looks like that might be a two or three or four inning outing. But you’ve got to do that against those guys.

“You’d better take your pops where you can, and when you squander a good run-scoring opportunity against those guys early it usually doesn’t bode well for you.”

On the Orioles playing crisp baseball the past few nights: “It’s the weather a little bit. It’s finally we’ve kind of settled into a set schedule and we were due to start playing a little crisper. That’s why it’s important that them and their teammates and their coaching staff don’t start changing the way they act or treat people or handle adversity. It’s a great time to evaluate right now because you get a feel for what’s real and what’s not when things get tough.”

On Kim’s RBI: “That was a big hit. They were pounding him in and he cheated a little bit and threw one down there because they were way over in the gap. Jon got a good break and a good read. Kimmy is a guy everybody pulls for. He’s a good teammate. He doesn’t complain. If you think about all the pressure when guys come over like that, the country wanting him to do well for the next guy coming and he has. I’m sure he gets asked a lot about not playing as much. I’m sure it’s a hot topic. We’re probably not even aware about what he deals with before games and after games. I try to keep that in mind.

“Culturally, he’s into the competition and being ready. He’s a professional.”

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