Allen Webster, Ryan Lavarnway battery paves way for right-hander’s first major league win
|07.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Allen Webster’s fifth career start in the major leagues — a two-run, six-inning effort in an 8-2 win over the Padres Thursday afternoon — was different than any that had come before it, and not just because it resulted in his first victory with the big league club.
For the first time in Boston, Ryan Lavarnway was behind the plate while Webster was on the mound. The two have some history, having spent most of the first half of the season together with Triple-A Pawtucket, and they used that background to the Red Sox’ advantage at Fenway Park.
“Things came together today for that combination,” said manager John Farrell, noting that it was a day game after a night game and Lavarnway hits lefties better than Jarrod Saltalamachia does. “But there is a little bit more familiarity there. Not to say that he’s going to be his personal catcher by any means, but I think history has a lot to do with their success here today.”
Entering Thursday’s match-up, Lavarnway had caught four of Webster’s starts since the rookie right-hander came over from the Dodgers organization last August, all four times coming this season.
Webster put up a 2.66 ERA and 9.74 K/9 rate in that quarter of outings. Three of those games featured Webster limiting opponents to one run or fewer.
In his other six starts — when someone other than Lavarnway was behind the plate — Webster struck out hitters at about the same rate while posting a 3.19 ERA.
Lavarnway and Webster — who share an agent, Adam Katz, and have grown close since spring training, according to the catcher — seemed to carry their chemistry into Thursday’s game against the Padres. Webster definitely ran into his fair share of issues, yielding five hits and four walks, but was able to make big pitches when he needed to.
Farrell cited two at-bats against former Sox outfielder/first baseman Mark Kotsay in particular. In the third, Kotsay stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two men out. Webster got him to roll over on a changeup, his signature pitch, and ground out to third, limiting San Diego to one run after what had been a bases-loaded, none-out scenario.
“That [third inning] could’ve sped up on him, especially being a young pitcher with not a lot of starts in this league,” Lavarnway said. “But what good pitchers do is they minimize it when innings start to go bad, and he minimized it. It was one run and that helped us win the game.”
Kotsay was up in another crucial situation in the fifth, the Red Sox leading just 4-2 and the Padres threatening with runners on the corners. This time Kotsay lined a fastball to Jonny Gomes in left on the first pitch after pitching coach Juan Nieves paid Webster a visit.
According to Lavarnway, who was 2-for-4 at the dish, Webster lacked his usual fastball command but made up for it with a strong slider and using his changeup a bit more than normal.
“I would expect him to come back with greater fastball command next time and be a little bit more dangerous,” Lavarnway said.
Webster struggled to the tune of 9.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in four starts before Thursday, one with David Ross doing the catching and three with Saltalamacchia, but seemed to settle down with a more familiar face behind the plate.
He said staying with the team for several turns through the rotation, as opposed to bouncing back and forth between Boston and Pawtucket, is also factoring in to his continued adjustment to the new level.
In the end, Webster came away with his first win in a Red Sox uniform and what Farrell said could be a huge confidence boost.
“It’s a huge relief,” said the usually shy Webster, unable to hold back a bit of a smile. “Big pressure off my shoulders, to finally get that No. 1 out of the way.”
Added Lavarnway: “He’s going to be a real special pitcher in this league, and I’m glad I got to be a part of his first big league win.”
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