After battling through six innings, weaving around rough patches to put together a quality start, Felix Doubront wasn’t thinking about his pitch count.
At that point, the Red Sox lefthander was listening to what his body was telling him.
“I was throwing the ball real good,” Doubront said. “My arm felt good. Everything felt good.’’
So even though he already had thrown 107 pitches, he wanted to come out for the seventh inning against the A’s, the same way he had done in his two other starts this season, and manager John Farrell obliged.
“I think I can go more,” Doubront said.
He got two quick outs — an Andy Parrino ground ball and a Coco Crisp line out — before leaving.
The 113 pitches he threw in Boston’s 9-6 win Monday night is a career high. To Doubront, going back out and stretching his start as long as possible was important. A year ago he averaged nearly 5⅔ innings in his 29 starts and only went beyond the sixth eight times. This season he’s done it every time out.
“They gave me the opportunity to go two more outs and I did good,” he said. “The big thing is how your body feels and your arm and it feels good.”
Striking out eight and allowing just three hits, he battled his way through any turbulence. In the fifth inning, he threw 31 pitches and worked himself into two bases-loaded jams by giving up three walks, a wild pitch, and a single, but he managed to limit the damage, giving up just one run.
“To come out of the 31-pitch inning with just one run allowed was key for us,” Farrell said.
Part of the fifth-inning issues was mechanics, Doubront said, and part of it was pace.
“I changed my mechanics a little bit, and I couldn’t find it,” Doubront said. “Those walks, I was thinking too much. My mechanics were too fast. The last hitter, I realized, get behind the rubber and just throw the ball. Let it go.’’
He faced the minimum in three of his first four innings, pitching at an easy pace.
“His tempo was good, it was quick,” Farrell said. “He was getting good action to his changeup and I think in that fifth inning it was a little bit of a loss of focus on his part. You combine three walks with [one] hit. To come out of the inning with just one run allowed was big for us.’’
The key in the fifth was composing himself rather than rushing.
“I slowed down a little bit,” Doubront said. “My delivery was a little bit off. The first three innings, I threw a tempo that made me feel good.”
Calling last season a learning experience, Doubront took the outing as a sign of progress.
“I think I’ve matured,” he said. “Those moments, they were tough for me and I was thinking about what I was doing wrong. That’s why I fixed that little thing to start throwing the ball for strikes.”
Sox starters have now have a 2.62 ERA and 125 strikeouts.
Knowing how many times Doubront’s Fenway debut had been delayed (two weeks ago he was pushed back after a rainout against the Rays, then this past weekend he was rescheduled because of the doubleheader) and also realizing the conditions he was pitching under (game time temperature was 45 degrees and it dropped from there) catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Doubront’s pushing into the seventh was impressive.
“It’s important for the pitcher to go as long as he can and Felix has had it a little rough,” Saltalamacchia said. “He’s made a start and then kind of skipped some starts and coming back and forth that’s tough to do, especially for a young pitcher. I’m definitely proud of him.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.