Closing Time: Felix Doubront falters as Red Sox close out season with loss
|09.29.13 at 5:04 pm ET|
BALTIMORE — In a game where the absence of meaningful stakes offered an echo of spring training, the Red Sox finished out their season with a 7-6 loss to the Orioles. No matter.
The Sox wrapped up the regular season with 97 wins, tied for the sixth most in franchise history, and the team’s second highest total in the last 35 seasons.
“Couldn’t be more proud of the way we made it through the regular season, put us in the position we’re in and we look forward to coming back on Tuesday, getting ready to prepare for Friday,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “I think everybody in our organization is proud of the team that’s been assembled here, the way they’ve represented not only Boston, but certainly the Red Sox. There’s been a lot of individual moments inside this season but the characteristic of this team is one that’s relentless. They don’t give anything away. It’s been a very fun bunch to be with.”
But the regular season had been rendered an afterthought by the time that the Sox clinched home-field advantage. Sunday’s game meant nothing, except as a prelude to what awaits in the playoffs. In those terms, the conclusion of the 2013 season represented a bit of a mixed bag:
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Felix Doubront, in an appearance out of the bullpen that was meant to serve as an audition for a potential postseason role, may have torched any potential October opportunity with Boston. He needed a whopping 55 pitches to record just four outs while yielding five runs on five hits (three singles, two doubles) and three walks. His strike-throwing wasn’t awful — he threw 35 of 55 pitches (64 percent) in his 1 1/3 innings — but he simply lacked the ability to put hitters away when he did get ahead. He elicited four swings and misses over the course of his outing.
“As a reliever, I have to be more prepared for that, for those situations. As a starter, I can do everything there and help the team. I think I can do that,” said Doubront. “It’s not the same [relieving], man. It’s not the same. You have to warm up, you have to stretch, you have to warm up quicker, you have to be ready in 10-20 pitches. As a starter, you stretch, run a little bit, long toss. Relieving, the long toss is right there. I can do it. I can do it. But today was my first time, you know? I have to practice that more on Tuesday, be more quick and get my arm ready. … And mentally, too, you have to be prepared mentally to be relieving and get ready faster.”
– Matt Thornton, likewise fighting for a spot on the Red Sox postseason roster, allowed a leadoff double to switch-hitter Brian Roberts when he left a 94 mph fastball over the middle of the plate, then was charged with a wild pitch when Ryan Lavarnway could not block a slider. Eventually, Roberts came around to score. Interestingly, the double was the first extra-base hit allowed by Thornton since the Sox traded for him — a particularly surprising fact given that he’d allowed 21 hits in his first 19 games with the Sox. In his 20 Red Sox appearances, opponents have hit Thornton at a .349 clip. He appears to be on the postseason roster bubble.
“I’m not caught up in the situation about whether I’m making the postseason roster or not,” Thornton told MassLive.com and the Boston Globe. “I’m going to be the same person every day no matter what. If they decide not to, see what they want to do but stay ready in case it comes up later on in the playoffs and if they want to take me of course I’ll be ready to go.”
– Will Middlebrooks went 0-for-5, finishing his season with a .227 average and .271 OBP (the lowest by a Sox hitter with at least 300 plate appearances since Tony Pena‘s .246 mark in 1993). He still offers considerable power to the Sox lineup, giving him considerable ceiling, but the lack of reliable on-base skill suggests the possibility of a lineup vulnerability, particularly given his season-ending .140/.155/.263 line with one walk and 18 strikeouts in his final 15 games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Right-hander Allen Webster rebounded from game-opening command woes (he threw nine of his first 10 pitches for balls), walking Baltimore’s first two hitters and three of the first four, to show the ability to overpower a big league lineup. He threw 30 of his final 40 pitches for strikes and retired eight straight to close out his outing, getting four groundouts and two punchouts en route to three no-hit innings in which he managed to work around his three walks to keep the Orioles off the board. It was a glimpse of the Webster who left the Sox so captivated with his potential in spring training, and offered the 23-year-old a strong foundation for his entry into an important offseason.
“It felt good just to get back on the mound. It had been a while,” said Webster, who will head home to North Carolina. “The first few batters, I couldn’t feel anything. Finally, once I got my first out, I was able to lock back in and let it go.
“Today I was just out there nervous to begin with, my first out, I was able to go,” he added. “It’s a lot better going home with three zeros behind me than a couple runs.”
– Jacoby Ellsbury offered a fairly significant sign that his return from a broken foot proved successful, as he jumped on a 2-1 cutter for a solo homer to right-center to lead off the game. It was Ellsbury’s ninth homer of the year (his first in three games since he was shut down due to a broken foot), and his third leading off a game this year. He also had a swinging bunt for a single.
“I think it couldn’t have went any better. Definitely very pleased, very happy with the games that I got into. I think everybody was happy with how things went,” said Ellsbury.
The Sox feel that they are entering the postseason with a dynamic top-of-the-order contributor.
“It doesn’t look like he’s missed any time as far as timing at the plate, and he makes a world of difference at the top of the order for us,” said Farrell.
– Light-hitting outfielder Quintin Berry, in his first start since the Red Sox acquired him in a late-August trade with the Royals, hooked a changeup from Chris Tillman and lined it over the fence in right field for a two-run homer, his first with the Sox, and later added a bunt single. Though the 28-year-old was acquired primarily for his game-changing ability on the bases (where he is 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts with the Sox), Berry is 5-for-8 with a walk for the Sox.
“He’s a confident player and when he’s pinch hit or today in the only start that he’s gotten all season for us since being acquired, he plays with a lot of confidence, particularly on the basepaths. There’s no hesitation on his part,” said Farrell. “And in the role we acquired him for, that’s going to be key going forward, if those situations arise.”
– The Sox’ two most reliable relievers, closer Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow, contributed scoreless innings in which they allowed a single hit. Uehara wrapped up the year with a 0.565 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning), the best mark ever for a pitcher who worked at least 50 innings.
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