BOSTON -- All he needed to do was get through the first inning, and he did it in 10 pitches.
Allen Webster had been plagued by rocky starts in his last two outings, but manager John Farrell believed that if the 23-year-old righty could get through his first three outs unscathed, he'd be OK.
Farrell was right.
Webster breezed through the best the Blue Jays had to offer in the top of the first inning, striking out Jose Reyes and getting Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to fly out. From there he was solid, not dazzling. Most importantly, he gave the Red Sox a chance to win.
In six innings, mixing mostly mid-90s fastballs and change-ups, he allowed six hits, gave up four earned runs, walked two and struck out three. Of the 18 outs Webster recorded, he forced the Blue Jays into 10 ground-outs, helping lead the Red Sox to their fourth straight win, 7-5.
"Much like we anticipated," Farrell said, "if he gets through the first inning, he has the chance to settle in. The most encouraging thing is the number of ground balls that he put on the ground. I thought he showed a lot of poise tonight."
His teammates were equally impressed. Andrew Bailey felt badly after the game for allowing a game-tying homer to Encarnacion in the seventh inning and thereby taking away Webster's chance at a win. But from what Bailey saw Friday, he knows Webster will have plenty more chances.
"He looked great," Bailey said. "That change-up he has is a great weapon for him. Not many guys can throw that hard, have a good change like that. He's a young kid, but he's got a bright future ahead of him. If he can go out and pitch like he did tonight every fifth day, he's gonna be good."
Certainly Webster's latest start was much stronger than his June 22 outing against the Tigers when he allowed four runs in the top of the first of a 10-3 Sox loss. It was also markedly better than the eight earned runs he allowed in 1.2 innings against the Twins in a 15-8 loss on May 8.
In his soft-spoken, syrupy drawl, honed near Greensboro, North Carolina, Webster explained that he was helped by hanging with the big-league club since that loss to Detroit. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey all provided him tips on how to prepare for hitters, and he was able to tweak his delivery with Boston's coaches.
"Just been working on some mechanical issues, trying to stay through it, stay behind it," Webster said.
He's developed a solid mental approach as well. For a young pitcher with little major-league experience, his rougher outings could have stayed with him and forced him to press against a division rival under Fenway Park's bright lights. But that didn't happen.
On Friday, he got through the first inning -- and the next three -- against one of baseball's hottest lineups without allowing a run. And though he lost some velocity on his fastball (from touching 97 to sitting at 93 miles per hour) and gave up three runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth, he gave his team a chance.
Those starts against the Twins and Tigers were things of the past.
"Once you've had a bad outing, it's happened. You can't take it back," he said. "You have to try to put it behind you and try to take a step forward."
Consider it done.