PAWTUCKET — It’s always nice to put on a good show when the brass is in town.
With Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington and Director of Player Development Ben Crockett checking out the action, the Pawtucket Red Sox thumped Syracuse, 7-1, Tuesday night before 2,675 fans. Allen Webster rebounded from a sub-par first start to his season with six shutout innings while Justin Henry and Ryan Lavarnway stoked the offense with back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning.
The difference between the Webster that held the Chiefs in check to the one that lasted just 3.2 innings last Thursday against Lehigh Valley boiled down to one simple issue: command. Featuring a mid 90s fastball along with a strong assortment of breaking pitches, Webster routinely got ahead of the Syracuse batters before inducing weak contact. Case in point, he got Will Rhymes to tap out to second base in the first inning after shattering the DH’s bat on a 93-mph offering.
Ten of the 16 outs Webster recorded came on groundballs. He scattered three hits while striking out three. The righty walked two as part of his 83-pitch, 54-strike masterpiece. Those two numbers are nearly the opposite from what Webster compiled against the IronPigs (81 pitches, 46 strikes).
“My fastball command was 10 times better than where it was the last game. I was throwing my off-speed for strikes and they were getting bad contact,” said Webster after Pawtucket registered its fourth win in its last five tries. “I was staying more in line and driving the ball to the spot rather than jerking it.”
Said PawSox manager Kevin Boles, “Webster was attacking and I thought he had real good mound presence tonight. He got strike one and was able to utilize a mix.”
The PawSox staked Webster to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, marking the first time that they had scored in the game’s first frame. Bryce Brentz came through with the big hit as the outfielder stroked a two-run double.
A sac fly by No. 9 hitter Peter Hissey made it 4-0 before Pawtucket hung another three-spot on Syracuse in the fifth. Hitting in the No. 3 spot in Boles’ lineup, Henry golfed a two-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen as part of a 2-for-4 night with three RBI and two runs.
“He works to all fields and drove the ball to his pull field tonight,” said Boles about Henry. “He puts together quality at-bats and makes pitchers work.”
Henry’s blast was followed by a home run by Lavarnway, an opposite field shot that was probably accompanied by a sigh of relief. That ended a 0-for-14 drought to begin the season for the catcher/first baseman.
“The one that Ryan has done the last couple of nights, he’s staying in his base and using his legs a little bit more,” Boles pointed out. “He’s been taking some pretty good passes at the ball.”
The first homestand of the 2014 season concludes Wednesday with a noontime start. Anthony Ranaudo (0-0, 2.25) gets the start for the locals while Danny Rosenbaum (0-1, 7.20) draws the nod for Syracuse.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03