It was far from an ideal situation for Allen Webster.
The Red Sox held a 3-0 lead over the San Diego Padres, but the third inning was starting to spiral out of control for the righthander, who was chasing his first major league victory.
Webster issued a four-pitch walk to Pedro Ciriaco to start the inning, and then hit Logan Forsythe. Will Venable singled to left field and Ciriaco was held up at third base, leaving Webster in a bases-loaded jam with no outs.
On the next pitch, Carlos Quentin sent a slider to left, the fly ball too shallow to score a run. On the pitch after that, Chase Headley lifted a fastball to center, this one deep enough to score Ciriaco.
The tension mounted again after Webster walked Jesus Guzman to load the bases again, but Webster got Mark Kotsay to ground out to third baseman Brandon Snyder to end the inning.
“I’m just trying to minimize,” Webster said. “The less amount of runs as I possibly could. I gave up one, and it worked out.”
Webster more than doubled his pitch count in the third inning — from 24 to 50 — but he was able to escape with Boston’s lead still intact. From there, the 23-year-old settled in and worked six innings in an 8-2 win at Fenway Park.
Webster closed out a nine-game homestand on which the Red Sox went 8-1. The Sox head west for a 10-game trip that concludes at the All-Star break, but Thursday’s game ball will stay with Webster’s father, Todd, who was in attendance.
“It’s a huge relief, big pressure off my shoulders,” Webster said. “I finally got No. 1 out of the way. I had my fastball command that really helped me out early, and I started falling behind a couple of innings and the defense got me out of a couple of jams.”
Webster surrendered another run in the fifth inning, an RBI single by Guzman, as the Padres cut the lead to 5-2. That was all Webster allowed before the trio of Andrew Bailey, Alex Wilson, and Craig Breslow finished the game.
The Red Sox provided plenty of run support as all nine starters registered a hit. The last to get one was David Ortiz, who batted with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth inning.
He worked a nine-pitch at-bat, showcasing patience and discipline, and hit a two-run single to give the Red Sox a comfortable 7-2 lead.
Webster’s first career start was April 21, a no-decision against the Royals in which he pitched six innings and allowed three runs (two earned). He didn’t pitch for the Sox again until May 8, when he allowed eight runs to the Twins in just 1⅔ innings.
Since his latest recall, Webster had made two less-than-impressive starts, giving up five runs to the Tigers on June 22 and four to the Blue Jays on June 28.
But Thursday Webster pitched efficiently, holding San Diego to two hits in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“With each passing start here at this level, he starts to get his feet underneath him,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s a work in progress. But today, he made a couple of big pitches when he had to.
“Any time a starter walks off the mound with a win next to his name, I think there’s further gratification and a known fact that they’ve got something for the five days of work they put in.”
Early on Webster relied on his fastball to get ahead of batters. His first three pitches of the game to Forsythe were all fastballs, touching 94 and 95 miles per hour.
Catcher Ryan Lavarnway said Webster had the best command of his offspeed pitches.
“You know what, this really wasn’t the best command of his fastball that I’ve seen,” Lavarnway said. “But he had his changeup working, his slider working and that got him back into his arm slot and kept him in counts.
“That [third inning] could’ve sped up on him, especially as a young pitcher and not a lot of starts in this league, but what good pitchers do is minimize when innings start to go bad. That helped us win the game.”