BOSTON -- It was a win emblematic of the Red Sox 2013 World Series championship season.
All the elements were there: a solid starting pitching performance, key situational hitting, the back end of the bullpen keeping it clean, and, oh, even a smattering of fiery emotion. As the Red Sox (8-10) got back within earshot of .500 with a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, there were signs of the winning baseball the team has struggled to put together through 18 games.
The same sentiment could be applied to Saturday’s starter, Felix Doubront.
After a 29-pitch first inning when Doubront again struggled with his command and spotted the Orioles a 1-0 lead, the left-hander didn’t let it snowball. Instead, Doubront responded in the affirmative, sitting down the next 13 in order.
Although he didn’t figure in the decision after the Orioles tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth, Doubront put forward just about his most consistent performance this year. He entered Saturday’s game with just eight strikeouts on the season and nearly matched his season total, fanning seven. Doubront pitched from ahead, walking two, while allowing five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“I don’t even know what happened,” he said of the first, “but I think I overthrew a couple balls and I was thinking too much. Then, I calmed down and tried to throw strikes and get a quick inning, and I did.”
As with any pitcher, it comes back to control for Doubront -- and that applied to his complete arsenal on Saturday. His changeup bit, the sinker had down-and-away motion. It was all down in the zone.
And, he got ahead.
“One thing that we’ve become familiar with Felix is that it takes an inning or two for him to get in the rhythm of the game,” Farrell said. “He made a couple of pitches in that first inning to keep the inning just at one run, but after that he got into a very good rhythm.”
Even as things could have come unglued in the sixth, Doubront bit down. After surrendering a two-out double to Adam Jones and then hitting Chris Davis with a 2-0 pitch, an out call at first base on a Nelson Cruz grounder was reversed. The result was a run scored and the inning continued. Then, the bases were loaded on a Brock Holt error. But Doubront lived to see another inning by inducing a J.J. Hardy fly-out to end the frame.
“He’s still trying to graduate and not make as many mistakes,” catcher David Ross said. “I think he can, as you saw tonight, keep a team off balance. He gave up that last run, I’m sure he didn’t intend to hang that curveball to Jones, and then the inning kind of got away from him and giving up that run. But all in all, it was a pretty good day for Felix.”
Now, it’s about transferring momentum to the next start.
“Last time out in New York, it took him about four innings to get to that rhythm,” manager John Farrell said. “I think today he went out with a little bit more of a mindset of just attacking the strike zone rather than thinking about delivery or arm angle or arm slot -- just more executing pitches.”