ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It had been two months -- to the very day-- since Felix Doubront last won a start, and for a time in the third inning Tuesday night, it appeared the winless streak might stretch further.
After retiring seven of the first eight Tampa Bay Rays he faced, Doubront's control suddenly left him and he issued three straight walks, loading the bases.
When Ben Zobrist connected for a line single to center to score two runs and Evan Longoria followed with a sacrifice fly, Doubront found himself behind 3-0 with action in the bullpen.
But Doubront got Jeff Keppinger on an inning-ending groundout and retired nine of the last 10 hitters he faced before leaving in the sixth.
By then, with the Red Sox' bats alive, Doubront had himself a cushy lead and was headed to a 7-5 victory, his first since July 18.
"It felt like a long time," said Doubront of the drought. "I just want to finish strong. I'm getting back my confidence. Tonight, there was just one tough inning and I handled that. That was pretty important for me."
Errant command has been an issue for Doubront in his second-half slide. In the first half of the season, through the end of June, he averaged 3.3 walks per nine innings; since then, he's averaged 5.7 walks per nine innings.
Surely that contributed to the eight winless starts.
But following a stretch of outings that saw him allow either four or five earned runs four times in five starts, Doubront began to turn the corner in his last start when he limited the New York Yankees to just two runs on four hits over 6 13 innings.
That trend continued Tuesday night -- minus the wild third.
"I think more focus," said Doubront in explaining the turnaround. "The mental part. Now, I'm (mentally) strong. In the past, I was a little bit lost (in that area). But talking to the guys and working more on the mental part has helped me."
Doubront labeled getting of the third inning "the challenge," and did so with a sense that his lineup -- which had been blanked over the first three innings -- would come back.
"I wasn't thinking about (the jam),'' he said. "I was just pitching."