BOSTON It wasnt until just a few days before the Red Sox broke spring training to head north for the season that Felix Doubront was informed he had won a spot in the rotation.
Now, after beating the Tigers, 7-4, at Fenway Park Monday afternoon, he leads the staff in wins with five and leads the starters with a 3.86 ERA.
Doubront (5-2) went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts, snapping the Tigers four-game winning streak, and moving the Sox back to .500 (24-24).
I dont know that Id be surprised because I thought we were going to, out of spring training, have an offensive team that would give him a chance to win some games, said manager Bobby Valentine. But I didnt expect this kind of consistency, and every time he comes out of the game he thinks he could pitch more.
Doubront needed just 11 pitches to get through the first inning. He ended the inning by striking out Miguel Cabrera, swinging at a 93-mph fastball. He struck out Cabrera again in sixth, this time swinging at a curveball. With six strikeouts, Doubront is average 9.48 strikeouts per nine innings.
The outing was Doubronts sixth quality start of the season, behind only Josh Becketts seven on the staff. He has held opponents to two or fewer runs in six of his 10 outings, including each of his last four starts since May 12.
He did a great job, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Just really went after these guys. Had a good fastball going. Just kind of pounded them away. Couple of non-damage home runs so no big deal. But he did a real good job.
Hes been consistent. You know what you're going to get from him every time out. Hes going to go after guys with his fastball and when he falls behind its usually with his fastball. So its not anything to really work on. Just got to continue going after them and grinding.
The two runs Doubront allowed came on solo homers one by Delmon Young with one out in the second, the other by Gerald Laird with two outs in the fifth. Entering the game, Doubront had given up just four home runs no more than one in a game over his nine previous starts, spanning 50.0 innings.
Those were mistake pitches, Doubront said. That doesnt affect me at all. I knew I threw the pitch bad and theyre going to score two home runs. But the big thing is realize what you do and just work on what happened and keep throwing.
Doubront threw 95 pitches, 64 for strikes, a respectable 67 percent strike rate.
First of all, you have to understand his stuffs tough to hit and so he gets ahead in the count and then they fouled a couple balls off, Valentine said. So theres pitches that are going to be thrown and he doesnt like to throw necessarily down the middle when hes ahead. But weve been talking about that 1-ball, 2-strike count and he had about another seven of them today. Thats pretty good. Wed like him to get one-pitch outs but its tough. His ball moves so much they get paralyzed off the first pitch. It takes some time for the hitter to kind of figure out what it is theyre swinging at.
For Doubront, it was just his 33rd big league start. He believed it was his best of the season. But, he knows its still a learning process.
Every outing Im learning more how to approach the hitters and today was, I think, I was more focused, he said. Throw the ball for strikes, get the hitters out quickly. Thats the result, that I was throwing the ball where I wanted.