When Clay Buchholz was injured for a large part of the regular season, it was lefty Felix Doubront who plugged the Red Sox rotation with a slew of steady outings, going 6-3 with a 3.90 ERA in 15 starts.
As the Red Sox looked to erase a four-run deficit in Game 2 of the ALCS, Doubront was dependable, yet again, albeit in a different manner.
In his first postseason appearance, Doubront faced Victor Martinez, who already had doubled twice in the game, and Jhonny Peralta, who hammered the Red Sox in Game 1.
Doubront worked strongly through the eighth inning and held the deficit at four runs, setting the stage for the Red Sox to rally for a 6-5 walkoff victory Sunday night.
“The first thing on my mind just, to get hitters out and keep the game that way to give my team a chance to score more runs and win the game,” Doubront said.
While Doubront tackled the middle of Detroit’s lineup, Brandon Workman provided the immediate relief for Buchholz, who surrendered four runs in the sixth inning as the Tigers took a commanding 5-0 lead.
Buchholz exited after allowing a two-out single to Omar Infante. After Workman walked No. 9 hitter Don Kelly, he got Austin Jackson to ground out to third to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Workman retired Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera, whose fly ball backed Jacoby Ellsbury into the center field triangle.
“Hitters one through nine in their lineup, they swing the bats really well,” Workman said. “They’re a good team, you got to make pitches against them and I was able to do that for the most part.”
The Red Sox were held hitless until the ninth inning in Game 1. On Sunday, they were held hitless through 5⅔ and struck out nine times before Shane Victorino singled in the sixth.
Despite the offensive struggles, Workman knew how important it was to keep the game close.
“The way our team is, the way our offense is, we’re going to score runs,” Workman said. “Our team fights till the last pitch every day, so that’s all I was trying to do, keep us in the ballgame.”
After Cabrera flied out, Doubront closed out the seventh inning when he got Tigers slugger Prince Fielder to ground out to third.
In the eighth, he needed just 10 pitches to get Martinez to foul out to first base and Peralta to fly to center. He walked Alex Avila, but got Infante to fly out to Victorino.
Then in the bottom of the eighth, Ortiz delivered a game-tying grand slam, and the Red Sox were back in it.
Entering the postseason, it was not a certainty that Doubront would be on the playoffs roster.
He struggled throughout September, and had a long layoff after a pair of rough outings in which he allowed a total of 10 runs, lasting just 3.2 innings each time.
After a 16-day layoff, Doubront pitched well in his last start, Sept. 22 against the Blue Jays, giving up just two runs in seven innings for a 5-2 victory.
But in the final game of the regular season, he was rocky again and surrendered five runs in 1⅓ innings of relief against the Baltimore Orioles.
If there was a way to erase his September struggles, Doubront certainly did so Sunday night.
“I felt pretty confident coming in that situation,” Doubront said. “The past is the past, I just want to go out and do my best and help the team win the game.”