Boston Red Sox

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 move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.

Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.

Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN. 

Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."

The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.