Closing Time: Red Sox cap 2013 regular-season home slate with 5-2 win over Blue Jays
|09.22.13 at 3:51 pm ET|
And now, Felix Doubront is off to the bullpen.
The 25-year-old left-hander stymied the cellar-dwelling Blue Jays in the Red Sox‘ regular-season home finale, tossing through seven innings of two-run ball as the Sox beat Toronto, 5-2, in front of a sold-out crowd of 37,020 at Fenway Park.
The outing will stand, barring injury to another Red Sox starter, as Doubront’s final start of 2013. Manager John Farrell said before the game Doubront will work out of relief starting next weekend when the team visits the Orioles. Whether or not Doubront makes the postseason roster in any capacity remains to be seen.
Sunday, though, Doubront cruised through his seven innings on 97 pitches (61 strikes) and was particularly effective late. He retired the final nine Toronto batters he faced and saw only two over the minimum in his last four innings. His afternoon ended with a perfect eight-pitch seventh inning, capped by a nifty play by Stephen Drew, who ranged to his left, snagged a Kevin Pillar grounder, spun and got the out at first.
Although Doubront only struck out a pair ‘ including Jose Reyes swinging to get things started ‘ he scattered four hits and two walks to limit damage.
“He was very good,” Farrell said. “Much more powerful than the first few times out. The additional rest we were able to provide him seemed to pay off. A lot of strikes. Maybe not the number of strikeouts we’re used to seeing from Felix, but I though the carried his stuff through a full seven innings. He was efficient, they were aggressive early in the count. He went to his changeup when he needed to.
“He repeated his delivery. He just looked more fresh and rested. And that was the case. A solid seven innings of work.”
Doubront finished 2013 with a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts, giving the Red Sox five pitchers with sub-4.00 ERAs as starters. Only Ryan Dempster (4.64) is above that mark.
It has been the best season of Doubront’s relatively young major league career, and Farrell ‘ who was Doubront’s pitching coach in 2010 when he made nine of his 12 major league appearances out of the bullpen ‘ was complimentary of his growth.
“He’s a talented left-hander, he’s got a full compliment of pitches, he’s got some swing-and-miss to his fastball,” Farrell said, later adding, “The only thing that limits him currently is just the stamina and endurance over the course of a full season. He’s an extremely talented young guy.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
— Jackie Bradley Jr. put the Red Sox up for good with a three-run homer over the Blue Jays’ bullpen in the second inning, the third long ball in the 23-year-old’s sporadic major league time in 2013.
The home run tripled his big league RBI total from June 5 through Sunday, a span Bradely spent most of with Triple-A Pawtucket.
He didn’t have a ton of experience against knuckleballers coming into Sunday’s game against R.A. Dickey, but he did go 0-for-4 when the Sox faced Dickey April 7.
“I saw a pitch up that I could handle and I tried to take advantage of it with guys on base, and I was able to get it air-born and let the wind do the rest,” Bradley said. “When it went in the air, I was like, ‘Aw, man, please keep going.’ I think it got in on me a little bit, but I just got enough of it.
Sox fans could be getting a glimpse into the future with Bradley seeing more time in center while Jacoby Ellsbury remains sidelined with a fractured foot. In 10 games (31 at-bats) since rejoining the major league team, Bradley is hitting .258 with a .743 OPS and the three RBIs on that one swing.
Bradley has ridden the Boston-Pawtucket shuttle quite a bit this season, and Farrell isn’t worried about his numbers being a bit low at the major league level.
“The three-run homer in the second inning puts as ahead to stay, but the challenges that he’s faced here ‘ major league pitching ‘ this will go a long way in his overall development,” Farrell said. “Our view of him long-term has not changed one bit. He’s just going through the normal transition a young player goes through.”
— David Ortiz followed suit with a home run of his own, this one not quite as long ‘ it bounced into the Toronto bullpen in the bottom of the sixth. It was his 29th of the season, meaning with five games to go ‘ two in Colorado, three in Baltimore ‘ Ortiz has a chance to hit 30 for what would be the first time in three years.
He has knocked more than 29 out of the park just once since 2007 (32 in ‘10).
— In a fitting end to the home finale, Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 21st save. He struck out one while throwing just nine pitches.
— Due partly to Dickey’s effectiveness and partly to Bradley’s homer, the Red Sox stranded one baserunner all game.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
— There’s little doubt Bradley will be an above-average outfielder over the long-term, but Sunday afternoon he showed there is still some work to do around the edges.
The Blue Jays had men on first and second with two outs in the top of the second, with rookie right fielder Pillar at the plate.
Pillar lined a single to center, and Bradley’s ensuing throw beat Mark DeRosa to the plate but was several steps up the first-base line.
— Pillar later sent one off the ledge of the Monster for a homer and the only other Toronto run.
— Will Middlebrooks, 0-for-3 with a strikeout Sunday, has struggled in his last 10 games. He is hitting .114 with a .139 OBP in that time.
— Which relievers the Red Sox will carry come Oct. 4 ‘ when they open up the Division Series against an opponent to be determined ‘ is still very much in the air. Left-hander Franklin Morales didn’t help his cause much in his inning of work Sunday.
He gave up two hits and a walk during a scoreless eighth. A double play helped him avoid further trouble, but he also threw a wild pitch and threw 13 of his 21 pitches for strikes. He also struck out one batter.
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