BOSTON -- It was everything Boston Red Sox pitcher Felix Doubront could have done for manager John Farrell on his birthday -- seven shutout innings, an efficient pitch count, no walks. Except there was one problem.
“It’s his birthday?” Doubront asked reporters after the game.
Regardless of not knowing it was Farrell’s birthday, Doubront gave his manager just what he wanted in leading the way in the Red Sox’s 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon. The left-hander allowed only five hits, all singles, and faced just four batters over the minimum on his way to his eighth win of the season.
“I felt all right,” Doubront said. “I was throwing my fastball down, was able to get big outs and keep the heat off the batters.”
The ground ball was working for Doubront on Sunday as the 25-year-old Venezuelan converted seven of his outs on the ground, including a double play off the bat of Arizona designated hitter Wil Nieves to erase a leadoff single in the second.
“He did a great job throwing the ball down in the zone and getting some ground balls when we needed it,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.
Doubront ran into trouble in the seventh though, requiring a visit from the Red Sox’s training staff after reaching for his right side following a tough at-bat against Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Despite the injury, Farrell stuck with his starter as Doubront needed 20 pitches to retire the next four batters and escape the inning with his shutout intact.
“I just gave everything I have and I was able to get out of the inning,” Doubront said.
“We weren’t going to take any chances but he was pretty adamant that while he felt a little tightness he was still OK,” Farrell said. “He threw the one pitch just to test it and make sure nothing was there and he finished out the inning with some of the best stuff he had on the day. So it felt like after the seven innings and the 95 pitches thrown, that was enough.”
Doubront’s strong outing increased his streak of allowing no more than three earned runs to 15 starts, the longest such streak by a Red Sox starter in a single season since Tim Wakefield had 17 in 1995. Over the streak, Doubront has gone 5-4, lowering his ERA from 6.40 to 3.56.
“He’s really been throwing the ball well the past five or six starts, really good deception,” Saltalmacchia said. “They really couldn’t do much with it, he was just really competitive and threw a lot of strikes.”
“It’s been in him this whole time. He’s really stepped it up for us and become one of our top pitchers,” the catcher added. “We need this.”