The Red Sox were excited to send one of their brightest pitching prospects to the mound against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night.
Allen Webster, a 23-year-old righthander, threw six strong innings against the Kansas City Royals in a spot start in April. Now he would get another chance with the Sox skipping struggling lefthander Felix Doubront.
Webster struck out the first batter he faced on four pitches, throwing three high-octane fastballs to Jamey Carroll before getting him with a changeup.
It proved to be the best moment of a long, painful night.
Webster didn’t survive the second inning and Doubront was hit hard in very long relief as the Twins beat the Sox, 15-8, before 29,969 at Fenway Park.
The 21-13 Sox have lost five of their last six games and have dropped into a tie for first place with the Orioles in the American League East. The starting pitching that carried the team for weeks is now showing a canyon-sized crack.
“In short, a tough night from the mound tonight,” manager John Farrell said. “A number of pitches found their way to the middle of the plate.”
Webster allowed eight runs on six hits — five for extra bases — and three walks. Doubront followed him to the mound and was rocked over 5⅓ innings. He gave up six runs on 12 hits and two walks.
Doubront’s 105 pitches were the most in relief for a Red Sox pitcher since Vaughn Eshelman threw 106 over 3⅔ innings against the Twins on July 25, 1996. It was only the third time since at least 1916 that a Red Sox reliever threw 100 pitches.
By the second inning, every Minnesota starter had scored at least one run. The Twins finished with 20 hits. Pedro Florimon, Justin Morneau, and Trevor Plouffe each drove in three runs. Ryan Doumit was 4 for 5 with a walk and scored three runs.
Webster was optioned back to Triple A Pawtucket after the game.
“Take it as a lesson learned and move on and try to do better the next time,” he said.
David Ortiz was 0 for 5, snapping his hit streak at 27 games. His last game without a hit came on July 1, 2012. Ortiz had a chance to extend his streak in the ninth inning and struck out.
Ortiz did not speak to reporters after the game. But he did react on Twitter.
“End of my hitting streak tonight the season stil [sic] going strong,” he wrote.
Ortiz also wrote that he hoped Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy “is a happy man now.” On Tuesday, Shaughnessy asked Ortiz whether he was using performance-enhancing drugs. Ortiz denied it.
Fixing the hole in their rotation is a far bigger issue for the Sox than the end of Ortiz’s streak. Doubront has a 6.40 earned average after giving up 12 earned runs on 24 hits over nine innings in his last two outings.
Doubront’s fastball was 88-89 miles per hour against the Twins, hitting 92 once. That’s a significant drop from last season, when he averaged 92.8 miles per hour.
“The one thing that’s a little concerning with Felix is that while he’ll get ahead of certain hitters, still lack the ability to put some guys away. We’ve seen that the last two outings from him,” Farrell said.
Of the 12 allowed on Wednesday, five came on two-strike pitches, three after Doubront was ahead 0-and-2. The Twins started the night 13th in the American League in runs scored and had a team batting average of .239.
Yet Farrell said Doubront would stay in the rotation.
“We haven’t come off that initial plan, which is Felix starting the next time through,” he said. “Physically everything checks out.”
The Red Sox are off on Monday, which would allow them to skip Doubront. They would not need a fifth starter until May 18 in Minnesota.
Webster (0-1) will see better days. He walked two after that first strikeout. Joe Mauer’s RBI double, a sacrifice fly by Plouffe, and a home run by Doumit followed.
Webster finished off the inning but not before throwing 31 pitches and falling behind, 4-0.
“When I didn’t make my pitches they made me pay,” Webster said.
The Red Sox gave Webster a second chance, taking a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Shane Victorino bunted for a hit off Minnesota starter Pedro Hernandez before Dustin Pedroia singled and Mike Napoli walked. Jonny Gomes followed with a towering home run over the Monster.
It was the fourth career grand slam for Gomes, his second against the Twins in less than a year. He had one last July 13.
The Sox took a 5-4 lead when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled and scored on a single by Stephen Drew.
Webster gained no traction with the lead. Florimon started the second inning with a home run to right field, the second of his career in 202 at-bats. A walk, a double, a sacrifice fly, and another double ended Webster’s night.
“The team did all they could to help me out. If I had gone back out there and thrown a zero, we probably win the game. I didn’t,” Webster said.
Doubront came in for his first relief appearance since Sept. 25, 2011. He put four consecutive batters on base as the Twins kept scoring. Doubront allowed another run in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
Ryan Pressly, who the Twins selected from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, got his first major league victory in relief. He went four innings and allowed two hits with two walks and three strikeouts.