BOSTON -- When it comes to how the Red Sox handle Felix Doubront, patience is a virtue they know must be exercised.
They know there's a good chance their 26-year-old lefty won't have an immediate feel for his pitches early on. But, on his good days, when he does find that feel, that rhythm, he can be filthy.
Saturday's 4-2 win over Baltimore was a case study in Doubront's approach. In the first inning, he wavered between erratic and untouchable. He allowed two hits, a walk and a run, but he struck out the side.
Then, once he had a better grasp on the game, he threw strikes early in counts and was perfect for four innings: Twelve up, twelve down.
He had a rocky sixth inning, but left the bases loaded after allowing just one run. When he was pulled in the seventh inning, he had turned in his best start of the season: 6.2 innings, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.
"I think that one thing that we've become familiar with with Felix is that it takes an inning or two to get him in the rhythm of a game," manager John Farrell said. "He made a couple of pitches in that first inning to keep the inning just at one run. After that, he got into a very good rhythm."
Sometimes Doubront doesn't find that rhythm so quickly. Farrell pointed out that during his last start in New York, a 3-2 loss to the Yankees, it took Doubront about four innings to find his feel.
In his start before that, he never found it, throwing just 2.2 innings and allowing five runs in a 10-7 loss to the Rangers.
"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," Farrell said. "It was just more executing pitches."
Doubront threw first-pitch strikes to 18-of-26 Orioles hitters, and he started the game by throwing strikes to 15 of the first 19 hitters he saw.
In the first inning, Doubront had to use 29 pitches to get three outs. He threw 38 pitches in the next four innings combined.
"Just throw down in the zone, throw more breaking balls, just throw strikes," Doubront said. "And they swing. They’re a team if you’re throwing a strike, they’re going to swing. I went with that, just throwing my cutters down in the zone. Tried to get quick outs and that worked."
All Doubront's pitches seemed to be moving and darting away from the barrels of Baltimore bats. Of his seven punchouts, three came on his fastball, two on his curveball and two on his changeup.
Catcher David Ross hadn't worked in a game with Doubront since Doubront's first start of the year on April 3 in Baltimore. Doubront allowed three runs on six hits in 5.1 innings that game. This one was significantly better, Ross said, not only because of the result, but because of Doubront's command.
"I feel like he just made pitches when he had to," Ross said. "He got ahead, he didn't fall behind much. He really used his cutter in to righties a lot more than he has for me, which really played in big for us.
"Just the consistency of some of his pitches really did a much better job for me today than he normally does -- or has in the past I should say. Just really executed some pitches, worked the zone. He wasn't so erratic out of the zone. The ball was moving a lot in the zone, so it was a well, well pitched game for him."