Doubront proves fit for spot starter's role

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Doubront proves fit for spot starter's role

CHICAGO -- Bobby Valentine thought that Franklin Morales could be an effective starting pitcher even though the lefty hadn't started a game in more than three years.

It's doubtful, however, that even his manager expected to get a start like the one Morales turned in Sunday night.

In his first start since coming to the Red Sox, Morales was brilliant in the Red Sox' 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs Sunday night, thought he didn't factor in the decision.

Morales allowed two runs on four hits in five innings, while fanning nine and walking no one. Of the two runs allowed by Morales, the second could have been prevented had Dustin Pedroia and Darnell McDonald not almost collided while converging on a pop fly to shallow right.

Though Morales has often struggled with his command in Boston, he threw 80 pitches, and a staggering 65 of them were strikes.

"We had a hunch that he could perform well in that situation," said Valentine, "and he proved our hunch correct. Those were five pretty good innings. And he had more, according to him. I'd like to give him a chance to do more next time."

Valentine liked what he saw of Morales in relief, but given the nature of the role, "he'd made a bad pitch and have to come out of the game. When he had some length, he always did a good job. When he had a full inning, he always completed it. He was throwing 95 mph at the beginning and at the end.''

Given a longer leash, Valentine thought, Morales could flourish. And in one start, he did.

"I felt pretty good the first couple of innings," said Morales. "I tried to get my confidence to make my pitches. After that, I tried to work ahead in the count. I wasn't thinking too much. I tried to let go with my fastball and use my pitches and stay consistent with my location."

Morales was also able to maintain his velocity throughout the night, seldom dipping below 94-95 mph despite this being his longest outing since 2009.

"I told (Valentine) I would let him know how I felt after every inning," said Morales. "With my confidence and my concentration, I felt strong in my mind."

Morales will presumably get another start next Saturday, with the benefit of an extra day's rest thanks to the off-day on Monday.

He became the first Red Sox starter to stirke out nine in an outing of five innings or less since Josh Beckett -- whose start he filled -- did so against Toronto on Aug. 28, 2009. He was also the first to accomplish that without issuing a walk since John Henry Johnson did so against Detroit on Aug. 7, 1974.

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:

QUOTES:

* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.

NOTES:

* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.

STARS:

1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.