PAWTUCKET ‚ÄĒ It‚Äôs not often that an athlete at an advanced stage such as Triple-A baseball is hearing something for the first time, but that was the case after Pawtucket held on for a 3-2 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday.
Allen Webster didn‚Äôt get the win, but the right-hander had his best start of the season for the PawSox. He set the tone for his outing by battling his way out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the first inning by recording a strikeout and a double play. Featuring a fastball that touched 96 miles per hour on the radar gun, Webster went on to log a season-best 6.2 innings while allowing just two runs.
When Kevin Boles was asked whether Webster‚Äôs smooth outing was attributed to simply a matter of him repeating his delivery ‚Äď an area of past concern ‚Äď the PawSox manager provided an answer that helped shed some new light on one of the top arms in the farm system.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs repeating his delivery a lot more consistently, but he‚Äôs got a quick hand with all his pitches. If you notice, the hand speed doesn‚Äôt vary too much,‚ÄĚ Boles pointed out. ‚ÄúHe has plus life to his fastball at times and then with the quick hands ‚Ä¶ that‚Äôs what is key for him.‚ÄĚ
Told what Boles said, Webster simply shrugged his slender shoulders as if to say, ‚Äúnews to me.‚ÄĚ To zip the ball through the zone at the same arm speed regardless of the pitch being thrown is something that he‚Äôs never really given much thought to until the subject was brought to his attention.
‚ÄúAs long as I stay in that one window, everything seems to go where it‚Äôs supposed to go,‚ÄĚ said Webster, whose streak of no decisions is now up to five games. He allowed seven hits to go along with six strikeouts and two walks.
The Indians nicked Webster for a two-out run in the third inning with the PawSox immediately tying the score behind a two-out RBI double by Ryan Lavarnway. Making the most of a rare start behind the plate, Lavarnway finished 3-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to six games.
‚ÄúWhen you watch Ryan at the plate, he‚Äôs making a conscious effort of getting in his base. He has a lot more balance and I think he‚Äôs getting his lower half established,‚ÄĚ said Boles. ‚ÄúThe recognition of pitches, he‚Äôs managing his strike zone a lot more effectively.‚ÄĚ
Pawtucket took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Garin Cecchini dumped a 1-2 offering into shallow left for a base hit to score Lavarnway. Before the knock, the PawSox had runners on the corners after Indianapolis second baseman Michael Martinez committed an error.
‚ÄúIt seems like he does something every game,‚ÄĚ said Boles about Cecchini. ‚ÄúHe may not get a hit every time, but if he does get an out, a lot of times it‚Äôs a productive out. At the very least, he‚Äôs a tough out.‚ÄĚ
Pitching into the seventh inning for just the second time this season, Webster saw his day end on a tough note when Chris Dickerson's two-out RBI single tied the score at two. Just like in the third inning, the PawSox wasted little time in answering the bell.
A leadoff double by Ryan Roberts opened the home portion of the seventh. Next up was Daniel Nava, who jumped all over an offering by Indianapolis reliever Cody Eppley for a base hit to right field. Roberts easily scored on the play.
Nava is now hitting .323 since joining the PawSox two weekends ago.
‚ÄúHis initial hand base has been shorter to the ball,‚ÄĚ said Boles. ‚ÄúHe had some length when he first got down here, but he‚Äôs now got better hand direction.‚ÄĚ
Nava‚Äôs game-winning hit helped Chris Hernandez pick up his first victory of the season. Hernandez recorded the final out of the seventh inning and the first out in the eighth before handing the ball off to Alex Wilson, who nailed down the game‚Äôs final five outs en route to registering his third save. Wilson struck out three of the five batters he faced.
The win enabled the PawSox (18-13) to salvage a split of the four-game series against the Indians (19-10).
EXTRA BASES: The PawSox staged their Second Annual Walk-N-Roll Fundraising Walk prior to Sunday‚Äôs game. Proceeds raised went directly to the Meeting Street School. Team President Mike Tamburro, his wife Anna, and General Manager Lou Schwechheimer were among the participants. ‚Ä¶ Another International League foe from the West Division is next up as Pawtucket begins a four-game series against Toledo on Monday night. The PawSox will feature right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (2-2, 3.77) while the Mud Hens counter with righty Derek Hankins (1-2, 6.23). Following Ranuado will be Matt Barnes (Tuesday), Brandon Workman (Wednesday) and Rubby De La Rosa (Thursday).
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03