BOSTON — Allen Webster is trending in the right direction.
Webster didn’t factor into the decision Tuesday as the Red Sox fell 4-3 to the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. The 24-year-old lasted six innings for the third consecutive start, however, and Boston can feel good about his progress since joining the major league squad on July 26.
“I thought he threw a number of good sliders to some right-handers, some changeups as well,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Tuesday’s loss. “When he’s right, and for the vast majority of tonight (he) put the ball on the ground with ground balls, it’s good to see him continue to back up outings in a positive way and build some momentum and I’m sure some confidence on his own right.”
Webster has been much more in control since stumbling through a disastrous outing against the New York Yankees on Aug. 2. He has managed to limit his walks — keeping his pitch count down — and has given the Red Sox a chance to win each contest. The right-hander was victimized by one rough inning Tuesday in an otherwise solid effort.
“Definitely just my fastball command,” Webster said of his biggest improvement over his last three starts. “Just trusting it and telling (myself) to just throw it there. Let them put it in play instead of trying to miss the bats, just try to (get them to) make bad contact with the bat.”
Webster allowed three earned runs on seven hits over six innings against the Angels. He struck out three, walked two and threw 99 pitches (60 strikes). All three runs came in the third inning, when Webster surrendered four consecutive hits and hit a batter.
Chris Iannetta, whose RBI double off Koji Uehara in the ninth inning proved to be the difference, started the Angels’ third-inning damage with a double to the wall in left-center field. Kole Calhoun, who robbed Brock Holt of a three-run homer the inning prior, knocked in Los Angeles’ first run with a single into center field. Mike Trout plated Calhoun with an RBI triple and scored when Albert Pujols yanked an infield single down the third base line.
It was a shaky stretch for Webster that prevented both him and the Red Sox from obtaining a victory. But considering the Aug. 2 start, when Webster went full-blown Daniel Bard and walked six batters in less than three innings, it’s easy to be optimistic about the recent progress if you’re the Red Sox.
“I thought overall we threw the ball very consistently,” Farrell said after Tuesday’s loss. “I thought tonight was another step forward for (Webster). He gets about a three-hitter stretch where they squared up a couple of pitches that stayed on the plate. But six solid innings of work. I thought he settled in after the third inning pretty well.”
Perhaps the most encouraging sign in relation to Webster is that he’s pitching with confidence. It’s evident in his willingness to pound the strike zone in the hopes of initiating weak contact, and it’s obvious in his ability to stop the bleeding — like after the third inning Tuesday — when things briefly go awry.
“I feel pretty confident right now on the mound,” Webster said. “I’ve just got to keep going for the rest of my starts and hopefully I can get the ball in play.”
Webster hasn’t been an overpowering force with the Red Sox. But he’s finally starting to build a solid foundation while auditioning for a spot in Boston’s 2015 rotation.