Tired? Who said Felix Doubront was tired?
Despite having soared beyond his career-high total for innings in a season, and despite struggling badly for seven starts after the All-Star break, Doubront remained in the Boston Red Sox's rotation and tossed his third consecutive gem Sunday.
Making his 28th start, Doubront took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, set a career high with 11 strikeouts, completed seven innings for the first time since July 13 and gave up one run in a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park, snapping Boston's four-game losing streak.
"The velocity that he had, and the command that he had, and to be able to strike out 11 of those guys, that's a good team over there," pitching coach Randy Niemann said. "Those are things that, going forward, I think are going to be real bonuses for him. I thought he was outstanding today."
But it wasn't a one-start thing. After a seven-start stretch in which he went 0-4 with an 8.27 ERA, Doubront has found another gear. In his last three starts, he has given up six runs on only nine hits and fanned 21 batters in 19 1/3 innings against the Yankees, Rays and Orioles, the AL East's three best teams.
And so, maybe Doubront was being truthful after all when he insisted he wasn't fatigued.
"Because this is my first year that I've been throwing a lot of innings, I think staying strong physically and mentally is pretty much the biggest part," Doubront said before attending a postgame tribute to Johnny Pesky. "It doesn't matter what you do. You just have to keep pitching and keep learning, and that's what I'm doing."
With only one start remaining, likely next Sunday in Baltimore, Doubront is 11-9 with a 4.91 ERA in 154 innings, a mark that far exceeds his mark of 87 2/3 last season or his previous career high of 129 1/3 in 2008 between two Class A levels.
Earlier in the season, former pitching coach Bob McClure suggested the Red Sox may have to consider shutting down Doubront when he approached 150 innings. But Niemann, who took over for the deposed McClure last month, said the lefty's bullpen sessions were an indication that he was healthy.
So, the Red Sox determined to let Doubront fight through his slump.
"Like I told him, even though the innings aren't up in the 200 range yet, it's something that he'll go through every year as a starter," Niemann said. "When he gets up around 200, that period will probably happen around 130-140. It's just something that happens. You feel good. You don't feel like you're hurt. It just seems like there's nothing on the pitch. He's done a good job of getting through it."