Doubront remains most reliable starter

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Doubront remains most reliable starter

TORONTO For Felix Doubront, it was pretty simple. Just throw the ball.

Doubront started out with 3-0 counts to the first two Blue Jays hitters he faced Saturday afternoon. Not a situation any pitcher ever wants. But, he eventually got Kelly Johnson to strike out, swinging at a 93-mph fastball, and Yunel Escobar to ground out on a comebacker.

But Doubront knew he wouldnt be able to work that way all afternoon. So, he made some adjustments.

Stay back and just throw the ball and dont think too much, the left-hander said.

The result? His staff-leading sixth win of the season, as he went 6 13 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts and two solo home runs. The 6 13 innings match a season high.

Two of the three runs he allowed came on solo home runs, one by Jeff Mathis with one out in the third, the other by Jose Bautista leading off the eighth. The other run (unearned) was a result of his own error on a chopper back to the mound by David Cooper.

I was actually thinking that today he really had better stuff than Ive seen this year as far as crispness with the fastball, good curveball, changeup, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He just kept falling behind guys. But as far as stuffwise, I thought today he had great stuff.

Doubront improved his record to 6-2 with a 3.75 ERA. It was his sixth straight start with at least six strikeouts, matching New Yorks CC Sabathia for most among American League left-handers, and his sixth overall with at least seven strikeouts. He has 66 strikeouts over 62 13 innings this season, for a 9.53 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio.

Hes been solid. Every start hes been solid, Saltalamacchia said. He goes after guys. Same thing every time. Doesnt trick anybody. Just has great stuff, good command, the ball moves. Hes just going up there like a bulldog.

In his last six starts Doubront is 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA, while not giving up more than three earned runs in any of those outings. He has given up six earned runs over his last three starts, all on five home runs.

He does it different ways, said manager Bobby Valentine. Today he showed hes a good pitcher because he was able to win the game without having his best stuff. His 1-ball, 2-strikes count wasnt present and thats usually his trademark. He was behind hitters getting three balls on hitters and still getting them out at times. In the fourth he came up with a good curveball and started throwing it. He figured out a way to keep us in the game to win the game.

For Doubront, who was not assured of a spot in the rotation until the final days of spring training, it was his seventh quality start of the season, matching Josh Beckett for most on the staff. The Sox are 8-3 in games Doubront starts.

I think he has room for improvement, Valentine said. Thats the great thing. Hes done great so far. We are 8-3 in those 11 starts. I think hes going to learn more about this league and about himself and continue to improve. Hes got a dynamite fastball.

All of which has come as a bit of a surprise.

When you talk about a guy winning six games by June 2nd and he hadnt been in the rotation before, I cant say thats what I expected, Valentine said. But I expected quality. I just didnt know what kind of length hes be able to give us. I have an open mind. I remember one meeting in the winter when everyone was being talked about it was general manager Ben Cherington or someone from his department said, Hes out of options. If he doesnt make our team, hes going to make some team and hes going to be in their rotation. At that time I felt, why not our team?

When he gets ahead I think he can be dominating. Instead of going 3-2 as often as he does after he gets ahead on the count I think he can start putting people away. He did it on the one 0-2 count when he got boom fastball strike three, but he wasnt there very often tonight.
Its not confidence. Sometimes its maybe over confidence. You get ahead quickly and then you say now I really have a perfect pitch to make. Watch this one. Hes just missing. When he starts catching the corner with those pitches and starts throwing the pitch thats off the other pitch that theyre checking their swing on, hes not a fun at-bat. I guarantee that.

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.