KANSAS CITY -- After going 17 innings Sunday and using nine different pitchers, the Red Sox needed Felix Doubront to take them relatively deep into their road trip opener Monday night.
But Bobby Valentine didn't like the way Doubront's night started.
After issuing a two-out walk to Billy Butler in the first inning, Doubront glared at home plate umpire Tim Tschida, believing the crew chief missed two pitches that should have been strikes.
That was enough to spring Valentine from the dugout.
"I think our starting pitchers are maybe falling into a habit that I don't want to see," explained Valentine, "complaining about the umpire. I went out and tried to put a stop to it before it spread.
"A couple of pitches were close and he stood there and looked at the umpire. That's not the way we're going to start this stuff."
After that, Doubront settled in.
"I focused more and forgot about those calls," said Doubront.
He knew from the beginning that the Red Sox were depending on him to give them some length.
"That was one of my goals," acknowledged Doubront, who improved to 2-1. "I tried to get the most innings I could and battle to the end."
Doubront was done in by some suspect defense. In the second, he allowed two runs, in part because Marlon Byrd couldn't track a fly ball to warning track, allowing a double. In the third, a throwing error by Will Middlebrooks helped set up another two-run inning.
But after Middlebrooks' errant throw, Doubront retired 12 of the next 12 hitters he faced.
"Felix was excellent," said Valentine. "He gave us exactly what we needed. He was efficient. He was right on (course). That's what we needed."
Even in the seventh, when his pitch count carried over 100 and reached 111 -- a career high -- on the final pitch, Doubront wasn't hit hard. The Royals pieced together three singles and a walk to force him from the game, but two of the single weren't hard hit.
"I think every outing, I learn more," he said. "It's good experience. I'm going to have more and more situations like this."
"I thought he threw the ball great," said catcher Kelly Shoppach. "His line is not going to show how well he threw the ball. A couple of goofy things (happened) early -- he really could have got out of there with two or three runs. He was actually more crisp as the game went on. He had more life on his fastball.
"I thought his last four innings were as good as he's thrown."
The Sox are now 4-2 in Doubront's six starts and should be 5-1 had they not blown a 9-1 lead he left for them in the team's infamous April 21 epic bullpen meltdown against the Yankees.