The Red Sox needed two things tonight: a long outing from their starting pitcher, and just enough runs to turn that outing into a win. They got both, with Felix Doubront providing the innings and Jonny Gomes the big swing to leave the Sox 3-1 winners.
With Felix Doubront on the mound just an hour after the Red Sox ran through four of their best relievers in the first half of the doubleheader, the possibility of disaster loomed large. Here was the team's least efficient starter. Even on his best nights, Doubront needed help from a pen that just wasn't ready to provide it tonight.
Felix did not wait long to show that tonight might be a very different sort of night. While Desmond Jennings took Doubront's first pitch of the night and hit it into left for a single, Doubront fought back, requiring just 11 more pitches to escape the top of the first, striking out Evan Longoria to finish the job.
This was the trend through the first few innings. Imperfect, but strong. Another single in the second? Still just twelve pitches to get three outs. A leadoff hit in the third? How about a double play to make it a ten-pitch frame?
Meanwhile, Daniel Nava had done just enough against a surprisingly strong Jake Odorizzi. The young starter had given Nava a pitch to hit in the bottom half of the strike zone in the bottom of the second, and Nava had hammered it into the bullpen, putting the Red Sox up 1-0.
And if Doubront had been strong to start the game, he was only better with the lead. A 1-2-3 fourth, a pair of strikeouts in a similarly clean fifth. Down the Rays went in the sixth, the seventh, and even the eighth. After allowing one baserunner in each of the first three frames, Doubront retired the last seventeen batters he faced.
With 93 pitches, Doubront could have been called upon to finish the job he started, but John Farrell elected to go to the bullpen, and that brought the one moment of darkness to a very good day indeed. While the Sox had threatened in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, they never completed the job, pushing across any insurance runs. So, when Andrew Bailey entered the game having allowed two runs and a homer in two of his last three starts, the margins were razor thin.
Two pitches later and those margins were gone. One bad fastball to Kelly Johnson, one home run to right, and a game full of domination from Doubront had effectively gone to waste. It was 10:00, and a brand new ball game in Boston.
Thankfully, those dark moments would only last so long. Andrew Bailey managed to get out of the top of the ninth without further incident, giving the Sox a chance to walk off in the bottom of the inning. Daniel Nava set the stage for a longer rally by drawing a walk. One more baserunner in quick order, and they would only need small ball to make it 2-1.
Or Joel Peralta could give Jonny Gomes a first pitch fastball, and Jonny Gomes could say goodbye. It's been a tough year for Gomes so far, but when he gets ahold of one, he really gets ahold of it. A big swing sent a towering fly ball to left field. The only question was whether or not it would stay fair, and when it bounced off the AAA sign over the Monster seats, that question was answered. Gomes rounded third, punted his helmet, and was mobbed at the plate.
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