No escaping it: Doubront struggled

BOSTON -- A very casual observer of Monday night’s matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays may not have even noticed Rays lefty David Price. His 7 1/3 innings were so crisp, so clean and so fast that a speedy snack run might have been enough to miss his brief visits to the mound.

Anyone with just a passing interest in the affair could not help but notice Felix Doubront’s five innings, each rife with baserunners, three-ball counts, lengthy at-bats and the general sense that the lefty’s world would cave in at any moment. It never really did, in large part due to some well-timed double plays, but it cleary was a step in the wrong direction for Doubront.

“Pretty poor. I was all over,” said Doubront, who somehow managed to limit the Rays to two runs. “I could not get ahead. All of my pitches were a little bit off. It was frustrating because I was feeling good in my bullpen, feeling good playing catch, and in the game it wasn’t there.”

Doubront, who said he could not figure out why his arm speed was slow Monday night, managed to extend his streak of allowing three earned runs or fewer to 14 straight games, a run that puts him in select company. Pedro Martinez is the last Red Sox pitcher to have such a streak, doing so in 2002, and no Boston left-hander has accomplished the feat in the live ball era.

When one considers that Doubront allowed eight hits, walked three and hit a batter in his five frames, during which he threw 104 pitches, there was no need to dwell on any streaks, records or accomplishments.

“Tonight, Felix seemingly never got in a rhythm,” manager John Farrell said. “Somehow he found a way to keep single runs on the board with the number of runners they were able to put on. Just kind of a struggle for Felix right out of the gate.”

Doubront did not retire consecutive batters until the final out of the third and the first out of the fourth. Meanwhile, Price set down 16 of the first 17 men he faced before Brandon Snyder’s pop fly glanced off the Pesky Pole with one out in the sixth to provide Boston with its only run.

It was the second time in five days that Price had outdueled Doubront. Given the disparities in their careers thus far, that’s not entirely shocking. However, it speaks a bit to what might separate these teams as they enter the stretch run. While Boston’s rotation has been solid, it remains thin as long as Clay Buchholz is on the shelf. One forearm strain or hammy tweak, or even just a slump by someone like Doubront, could expose the lack of depth.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has seen its starting staff go 18-3 with a 2.17 ERA during the club’s remarkable 22-4 stretch.