BALTIMORE -- With a rotation featuring only two starters with a sub-5.00 ERA (Dylan Bundy at 2.93, Wade Miley at 3.27), the Orioles are struggling to afford the struggles of the fifth spot in the rotation.
The Orioles have had difficulty finding success in what had been Ubaldo Jimenez's spot in the rotation all season. After Jimenez struggled, the Orioles replaced him with right-hander Alec Asher.
On Thursday, Asher labored through four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and walking four batters. He threw 100 pitches and picked up the loss after a 6-1 defeat to the Nationals.
After just the first inning, Asher had thrown 41 pitches and given up four runs. He walked the first batter of the night, Trea Turner, on four straight pitches. Turner then stole both second and third base against Asher, who had yet to have a steal attempt against him this season, to start the four-run rally.
"It's tough," Asher said of bouncing back from a long first inning. "You never want to throw that many pitches in one inning. You never want to give up four runs in an inning. You just kind of try to clean the slate and move forward."
Asher took Jimenez's start in Houston on May 28 but went just two innings after allowing six runs on six hits. Despite that shaky performance, manager Buck Showalter gave him another shot at a starting role against the Red Sox on June 2, and he took a step in the right direction, allowing just two runs on three hits through 6 1/3 innings. But on Thursday he took two steps back.
"He finally started using the curveball a little bit more," Showalter said. "But a lot of counts [were] not in his favor and he got ambushed a little bit in the first inning, and it didn't look like we were going to mount much."
In both of Asher's rocky starts, Jimenez entered in relief. On Thursday, Jimenez pitched three innings, allowing just one mistake, to Stephen Drew, who homered on a line shot to right field. The home run was the only hit and run Jimenez allowed. Since his demotion to the bullpen, Jimenez has posted a 4.50 ERA.
"You know, just trust the process and go about our business and your game plan," Asher said of trying to find consistency in his starts. "Trust that you're good enough to make pitches and get guys out."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.