DETROIT — Red Sox rookie Allen Webster had a tough assignment on Saturday night, coming up from the minors to start against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers have a fearsome lineup, one that has been especially potent at Comerica Park this season. Detroit also had undefeated Max Scherzer on the mound.
The Red Sox gave Webster an unexpected gift when they scored two runs in the first inning against Scherzer, one coming on a long home run by David Ortiz. Webster had a chance to pitch with a little less pressure.
It didn’t help. Webster allowed four runs in the first inning in a game the Sox lost, 10-3, before a sellout crowd of 42,508.
Victor Martinez drove in five runs, four with a grand slam in the first inning. In a series between two division leaders, the Sox have dropped two of the first three games. They now face Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Sunday afternoon.
So quickly giving away a lead was a sin that manager John Farrell was not eager to forgive.
On May 8, when Webster made his last start for the Sox, he allowed four runs in the first inning against the Twins. Then it happened again against the Tigers.
“The four runs given back in the first inning kind of set the tone for the evening,” Farrell said.
With Clay Buchholz still not ready to come off the disabled list, the Red Sox will need a starter for Saturday’s game against Toronto at Fenway Park. Farrell was noncommittal about the idea of Webster staying in the rotation, saying the Red Sox had some decisions to make.
“That’s yet to be determined,” Farrell said. “We have some conversations we have to have.”
Rubby De La Rosa may be a better choice. The 24-year-old threw six shutout innings for Triple A Pawtucket at Toledo on Saturday night, allowing one hit. He struck out seven without a walk.
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter had groundball singles off Webster to start the first inning before Miguel Cabrera walked to load the bases.
Webster came back to strike out Prince Fielder, but Martinez lined a fastball just over the fence in right for a grand slam. It was just his sixth home run of the season.
“Left one over the middle and he hit it hard,” Webster said.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hoping Webster’s sinker would induce a double-play groundball and get him out of the jam.
“He was getting better as the inning went on,” Saltalamacchia said. “But it’s never over, obviously, with Victor up there. He’s a good hitter. We’re trying to get the groundball. But it got too much of the plate and he pulled it. I thought it was a decent pitch.”
Webster pitched pretty well after the slam, giving up only one other run before leaving after 4⅓ innings and 82 pitches. He walked two, struck out five, and got 21 swing-and-misses, most with a changeup and a fastball that hit 96 miles per hour.
Webster’s changeup, Cabrera said, was a “nasty” pitch.
“Electric stuff,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Martinez, the former Red Sox catcher, believes Webster has a bright future.
“That kid has great stuff. I watched the video on him. Facing him you see a lot of movement on the fastball and he’s got a great changeup,” he said. “That kid is going to be a very good pitcher in the major leagues.”
But for now Webster is 0-2 with an 11.25 earned run average after three starts. The Sox expected better after seeing him pitch well in spring training.
“He’s got all the pitches and raw stuff you’re going to look for in a young pitcher. It’s a matter of consistency. It’s a matter of repetition, particularly at this level,” Farrell said.
Webster feels like he’s getting close to that.
“Each game I learn a lot from facing the really tough hitters,” he said. “Taking every little piece I can learn and learn from it. I’ve got to get the ball down and keep our team in the game.”
Franklin Morales replaced Webster and allowed four runs over 2⅓ innings. When Omar Infante hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning, Morales felt pain in the front of his shoulder and came out of the game.
Farrell indicated that Morales would likely be placed on the disabled list Sunday.
Morales said the injury was similar to the one he suffered in April while pitching in a minor league game. That set him back for three weeks.
“I feel it one pitch . . . the pitch to Infante,” Morales said.
Scherzer (11-0) allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings. He struck out six without a walk. The Sox had three hits in the first inning and were shut down from there. They scored a run in the ninth inning on an RBI single by Saltalamacchia.
Jose Iglesias was 2 for 3, raising his batting average to .438. He has reached safely in 25 consecutive games. It’s the second-longest such streak in the majors to Cabrera, who has reached in 37 straight games. Iglesias has at least one hit in 21 of his last 22 games.