PAWTUCKET, R.I. – It almost lived up to the hype.
Allen Webster started with a bang and Gerrit Cole followed suit in the battle of future aces, but neither sustained the flash for the 5,303 fans in attendance during Pawtucket’s 11-3 win over the Indianapolis Indians.
Ranked the fourth best prospect in the Red Sox system according to Baseball America, Webster allowed just one run on one hit over five-plus innings while striking out seven and walking five.
The 23-year-old retired the first 11 Indians he faced, the last six sent packing by way of the strikeout, and it appeared he’d be on his way to pitching his best outing of the season, if not his career, with two outs in the fourth.
But then Webster ran into trouble with his command. He walked five of the subsequent eight batters before ending his night, a stretch that saw him throw 17 of his last 28 pitches for strikes including a wild pitch.
“It felt great the first four innings, it felt awesome. But then in the fifth I had mechanical issues,” Webster said.
“I was leaving my arm back and the ball was flying up and away. The defense got me through the inning. It was basically their inning.”
Webster’s referring to his battery mate’s putout at second baseman. Alberto Rosario blocked a ball in the dirt and gunned down fellow catcher Tony Sanchez, who was leaning a bit too far in hopeful attempts to advance to third.
“That saved me a lot,” Webster said on Rosario’s play.
Jonathan Diaz, who drove in three on the offensive side, commenced a 5-4-3 double play three pitches – which were balls – after Rosario’s play to end the fifth.
Cole, who’s the top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirate’s system according to Baseball America, pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight runs on six hits while walking three and striking out four.
His story is no different. The 23-year-old retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced, but then ran into trouble at the same time as Webster.
Brandon Snyder was hit on a first-pitch, 98 mph fastball from Cole with two down in the fourth inning. Jeremy
Hazelbaker followed with an infield single to short, and Jonathan Diaz pulled a triple to left – his sixth extra base hit in five games – to plate both Snyder and Hazelbaker.
A balk committed by Cole, who was seemingly attempting to wipe some dirt off the mound after he was set, would later permit Diaz to cross the plate.
The PawSox then scored a run in the fifth and five in the sixth off Cole – the latter aided by three stolen bases by Snyder (his first since August 26, 2011), Hazelbaker and Diaz and sacrifice flies from Jose Iglesias and Brock Holt.
“He was very dominate in college,” said Jackie Bradley, Jr., who’s faced Cole in Double-A last season and in the 2010 College World Series. “As he’s been coming up through the levels, he’s been pretty dominate as well.”
“We were able to get to him early and we put up some runs when we needed to by playing the game the right way – people getting on and moving them over, doing the small things to get runs,” Bradley continued. “[Cole] has what it takes to pitch at the highest level. He has the stuff that the guys in the major leagues have.”
Chris Martin pitched two scoreless innings of relief following Webster to increase his scoreless streak to 26 innings. Graham Godfrey pitched a shaky eighth in which he allowed two runs on a home run by Indians center fielder Alex Presley.