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Felix Doubront continues to stymie Yankees as Sox cruise to win

07.19.13 at 10:10 pm ET
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Felix Doubront allowed just one earned run over 6 1/3 innings Friday. (AP)

Felix Doubront allowed just one earned run over 6 1/3 innings Friday. (AP)

Felix Doubront may never have expected to hear his name mentioned in the same sentence with Babe Ruth’s, but he earned that treatment Friday when he recorded his sixth straight quality start against the Yankees. The last Sox pitcher to have as many to open his career against the Yankees was Ruth, who — according to Baseball-Reference.com — recorded seven in a row from 1916-17.

Doubront brought his ERA in six starts against the Yankees to 2.17 (the second lowest of anyone with at least 25 innings pitched against New York since 2012) and picked up right where he’d left off before the All-Star break, throwing 6 1/3 strong innings. Behind that performance, two early home runs were enough to lift the Sox over the Yankees in a 4-2 win.

Doubront pitching into the seventh for the fourth straight time, a welcome sight for a Sox bullpen that has seen more than its share of attrition in recent days (Andrew Bailey was the latest casualty, going on the DL with shoulder injuries Friday). In those 6 1/3 innings, Doubront gave up two runs (one earned) and struck out five, allowing three hits and three walks.

“I finished the first half pretty good. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to keep that pace,’ “said Doubront.

The left-hander did just that. He carried a no-hitter into the top of the fifth, with the caveat that he had walked three hitters to that point. But aside from a pair of doubles to Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart in the fifth that produced the Yankees’ only earned run, Doubront didn’t surrender an extra-base hit, and needed only 93 pitches to get into the seventh.

Doubront was also alert enough to try picking Brett Gardner off of first in the fourth inning, but although he caught Gardner off the bag, Mike Napoli‘s throw to second wasn’t in time to get him. Gardner eventually scored after Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s attempt to throw him out on a steal of third went awry and down the left-field line.

In his last six starts, Doubront now has a 1.83 ERA, and he’s pitched into the seventh inning in all but one of those starts.

“He’s certainly gained a lot of confidence over the last couple months,” said manager John Farrell. “He’s trusting his fastball more over the plate and not trying to be so fine. And he’s got a four-pitch mix working that he’s used right out of the gate in games, not only to establish a fastball but use his other stuff to allow him some breathing room inside the strike zone. He doesn’t have to be so pinpoint by just trying to establish his fastball.”

Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Sox on Friday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury returned from the break in style, knocking the second pitch he saw from Andy Pettitte over the wall in right field for his fourth homer of the year. Ellsbury also singled to lead off the third inning, although he was erased from the basepaths on a subsequent double play, and walked in the seventh.

“It feels like after he jammed his wrist, he’s come back and he’s hitting about .700 since coming back,” joked Farrell, referring to an injury Ellsbury incurred against the Angels. “He’s been in such a good place from a balance standpoint, and timing has been much more consistent. Going back to earlier in the year coming out of the trip to Chicago, from that point forward, his timing has been much more Jacoby-like. His ability to get on base stands for itself with the havoc he can create. We’re just seeing a little bit better leverage with the swing overall.”

Since the start of June, Ellsbury is hitting .369 with 13 extra-base hits and a .415 OBP.

Jonny Gomes started in left field as part of a righty-heavy lineup against the left-handed Pettitte (although Gomes has actually fared slightly better against righties this year). He entered Friday’s game hitting .344/.382/.563 over his last 10 games and added a home run and a double to that strong stretch.

With Napoli on first by way of a walk, Gomes sent a 2-2 pitch from Pettitte into the left-field stands to make it 3-0 Sox in the second. Pettitte’s six previous pitches to Gomes had been off the plate, but when he left a changeup in the strike zone, Gomes got all of it for his seventh home run of the year.

Gomes then led off the seventh with a ground-rule double – not a particularly long one, but a ball that bounced into the right-field stands nonetheless. He took third on a wild pitch and scored when Jose Iglesias singled to right.

– Iglesias didn’t have a stellar night at the plate, grounding out in his first two at-bats and going 1-for-3, but he did drop a timely single into right to score Gomes, giving the Sox some welcome insurance, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The at-bat that produced that single was a strong one, too, as Iglesias saw eight pitches from Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley and eventually put a slider that stayed over the plate in play.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Shane Victorino‘s lefthamstring, which has nagged him all season, flared up again in the third inning. Victorino grounded into a double play and left the game with soreness in the hamstring after running to first, with Daniel Nava replacing him in right field.

Victorino has played in just 65 of the Sox’ 96 games so far this year, with his leg issues accounting for many of those absences. However, initial signs were promising that Victorino might not be sidelined for long.

“Strength tests out fine afterwards. The left hamstring started to grab him the inning prior to his last at-bat,” said Farrell. “Day-to-day, as he’s been for quite a while. We’ll check him before we make a decision on the lineup tomorrow. He didn’t feel like there was any popping sensation. Nothing like that. Just felt like it was starting to cramp down on him and grab him.”

– The Sox missed some opportunities to break open the game, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

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