No win, but a great start for Doubrount

No win, but a great start for Doubrount
June 19, 2013, 1:30 am
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BOSTON -- Felix Doubront looked like a changed man on Tuesday night. Gone was the lefty who ran up pitch counts and had not pitched past the sixth inning in two months. In his place was a different pitcher, one who pounded the strike zone and frustrated hitters deep into the night.

Records will show that Doubront didn't get credit for the 3-1 Red Sox win after Jonny Gomes hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to sweep the Rays in their day-night doubleheader, but he was dominant.

Doubront threw eight full innings for the first time in his career, facing just two batters over the minimum. He struck out six, and he finished the game having retired 17 Rays in a row.

"I was feeling real good inning by inning," Doubront said. "That was real nice. I think that I needed to go deep in the game . . . I was working the five-day routine to see better results, and you see this game."

In Doubront's last start, he threw 103 pitches through 4.2 innings and gave up four runs in a 5-4 loss to the Orioles. So what happened in between that start on Thursday and this one? How did he write this tale of two pitchers?

He kept things very simple in his last bullpen session: Throw strikes; keep it low.

Against the Rays he was able to do just that, throwing 93 pitches and 58 for strikes. He didn't walk a single batter.

"Just throwing strikes," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said, explaining Doubront's secret to success. "When he fell behind, he was able to throw his off speed for strikes early. [He] didn’t miss over the plate. It’s tough to hit a guy when he’s down in the zone, hitting his spots on each corner. He did a great job."

Manager John Farrell saw a different Doubront as well. Fastballs for strikes. Cutters in on righties for strikes. Curveballs, change-ups: strikes, strikes, strikes.

"Lotta strikes," Farrell said. "He didn't have that stretch of hitters where he lost the strike zone, where he issued a couple of bases on balls. He attacked the zone all night."

Though Doubront's pitch count was relatively low going into the ninth, Farrell opted for Andrew Bailey to close it out. The righty gave up a game-tying home run to Tampa Bay No. 9 hitter Kelly Johnson, and only escaped more damage after a diving play at third by Jose Iglesias to retire Evan Longoria on a fielder's choice.

Doubront lost an opportunity at a win, but he said he trusted his manager's decision to insert Bailey.

"I wasn't disappointed," Doubront said. "That's the game. We trust our closer and that happens. We got the win. That's important."

As an added bonus, Doubront saved the Sox bullpen. Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow all had to throw an inning in the first game with the Rays -- a 5-1 victory -- which was delayed about three hours thanks to torrential downpours over Fenway.

"Felt like he more than did his job tonight," Farrell said.

Doubront explained that this was the kind of night that might propel him forward. Maybe it was the game that will make people forget the old Felix, the guy who could wear out a pitch-count clicker into the fourth inning. Maybe this is the start of something different.

"This game gives me more confidence," Doubront said. "I needed this. I needed this to get more confidence. I need to trust all my pitches and go to the next game and try to do the same."