From dud to stud: Doubront starting to deliver

AP photo Chris O'Meara

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

It’s beginning to look like Red Sox starter Felix Doubront has turned the corner.

Doubront vaulted out of the gate in 2013 with a 3-0 tally in his first four starts, but was quickly ravaged in back-to-back appearances as a starter in Texas on May 3 (3.2 IP, 12 H, 6 ER) and coming out of the bullpen against Minnesota May 8 (5.1 IP, 11 H, 6 ER). Those outings quickly saw his ERA mushroom from 4.24 to 6.40.

Since that horrendous mini-stretch, however, Doubront has settled down and set down batters in fine style, giving up three or more earned runs only twice in his past 11 starts while flaunting a 2.08 ERA in his last four outings.

On Wednesday night the Venezuelan lefty was once again in full command of his fastball — and the Mariners’ bats. He went seven strong innings and gave up only five hits and one earned run while striking out six and walking two to move to 6-3 on the year and lower his ERA to a season-low 3.91. It didn’t hurt that the Sox staked him to a five-run lead by the fifth inning, en route to an 11-4 rout.

Doubront's previous best outing was June 18 in the second half of a day-night doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays. In that one, Doubront went eight innings for the first time in his career, giving out only three hits, striking out six and retiring the last 17 batters he faced. He was saddled with a no-decision instead of a win when Andrew Bailey blew the save in the ninth inning, however.

If this sort of consistency continues, Doubront — who was banished to the bullpen for a spell earlier in the year — may very well look back at that game as the fulcrum on which his season swung.

“(That) game gave me more confidence,” he said of the Tampa Bay outing. “I needed (that).”

In his previous start on July 5 Doubront was again in fine form, going 6.2 innings and giving up two runs on five hits while striking out five in a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to kick off a ten-game road trip on the West Coast.

“He has weapons. He has the assortment of pitches to keep guys off-balance,” said manager John Farrell after that start. “He’s kind of flown under the radar, given the years we’re getting out of some other guys, but he’s logging a lot of quality innings for us.”

Out of nowhere and at the mid-season mark, Boston’s best one-two punch isn’t the expected duo of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz — it’s John Lackey and Doubront.

Lackey has been a stellar 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA over his last ten starts, and Doubront is hot on his heels.

With Lester reeling of late and Buchholz still on the shelf with an injury until at least a week after the All-Star break at best, it couldn’t come at a better time.

Twitter: @jan_doh