The Red Sox will look to take the series against Tampa Bay on Thursday night as Felix Doubront takes on Rays righty Alex Cobb in the rubber match of the three-game set.
Doubront, who has struggled in the early going of 2013, hasn’t appeared in a game since May 8 and hasn’t made a start since May 3. The lefty was briefly taken out of the rotation in favor of Allen Webster but ended up relieving Webster in his start last week, taking over with two outs in the second inning and going 5 1/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and six runs in his first appearance out of the bullpen since Sept. 25, 2011. The Sox opted to push Doubront’s next start back a few days after the relief appearance; he would have been slated to go on Tuesday if the rotation had stayed the same.
In seven career games (four starts) against the Rays, Doubront owns a 3.91 ERA and a 2-1 record in 16 2/3 innings pitched. Tampa Bay hitters have hit Doubront at a .250 clip over the course of his career, but many current members of the Rays lineup have had success in limited plate appearance against the Sox left-hander. Seven of 12 Rays position players are hitting .333 or better against Doubront in their careers.
The 25-year-old Doubront had a decent month of April, going 3-0 with a 4.24 ERA, allowing either two or three earned runs in all four of his starts. But his last two appearances have ballooned his season ERA to 6.40, thanks to 12 runs and 23 hits allowed in his last nine innings. Doubront showed a lack of ability to put hitters away, allowing five of the 11 hits in his last appearance after getting two strikes on the batter. He has also struggled with his command, walking about 4.5 batters per nine innings.
In an attempt to alter his mechanics, Doubront adopted a new routine since his last appearance a week ago, throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday and working on his “lower half and stride direction,” according to manager John Farrell. Doubront also is working to gain back the velocity he’s lost on his fastball this year and has been trying to improve his ability to put hitters away. The young starter seems hopeful that he’ll be able to get back to where he wants to be through hard work, saying, “It’s baseball, it’s not just happened to me, it’s happened to a lot of pitchers. They can’t get the last out, or they can’t throw that pitch to get the hitter out in 0-2 counts, that happens. But that comes. That comes from time and, you know, got a long season. I don’t worry about that. Just keep working, one day it’s going to change everything.”
Doubront will be matched up against fellow 25-year-old Alex Cobb, who is finding success in his second full season in the majors. Cobb comes into his eighth start with a 4-2 record and 3.09 ERA, good for second in Tampa Bay’s talented rotation. The right-hander has showed excellent control in his 46 2/3 innings this year, walking only 10 batters and averaging less than two walks per nine innings.
Cobb’s last outing was an interesting one, to say the least. He struck out a career-high 13 batters against the Padres, managing to do so in only 4 2/3 innings. However, he also gave up three runs, five hits, two home runs and two walks, and he hit a batter, forcing him out of the game with 117 pitches in the fifth inning. If this game wasn’t strange enough, only 12 of Cobb’s strikeouts resulted in actual outs — he ended up striking out four batters in the third inning after a wild pitch on strike three allowed San Diego’s Will Venable to reach first base. The outing made history, with Cobb becoming the first player in major league history to fan 13 batters but fail to make it through five innings. “I don’t know if that’s a good thing,” Cobb said of his feat. “As a starting pitcher, you want to go at least five innings every time out.”
Thursday’s contest will be Cobb’s second start of the season against the Red Sox. The Boston native came out on the losing end of a matchup against Clay Buchholz back on April 14, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits, while Buchholz threw eight innings of two-hit, scoreless ball. In his career, Cobb is 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts against Boston.
Red Sox vs. Cobb (RHP)
Dustin Pedroia (11 plate appearances): .222 BA/.364 OBP/.222 SLG, 2 walks
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (10): .167/.500/.167, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
Stephen Drew (7): .400/.571/.600, 1 double, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Jacoby Ellsbury (7): .286/.286/.714, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout
Daniel Nava (7): .167/.286/.167, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout
Pedro Ciriaco (6): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout
Mike Napoli (6): .400/.500/.600, 1 double, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Ryan Lavarnway (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 strikeout
Shane Victorino (4): .333/.500/.333, 1 walk
Mike Carp (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI, 2 strikeouts
Will Middlebrooks (3): .333/.333/.333
David Ortiz (3): .000/.667/.000, 2 walks
Jonny Gomes has not faced Cobb.
Rays vs. Doubront (LHP)
Kelly Johnson (13): .273/.385/.273, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Ben Zobrist (13): .250/.308/.250, 2 RBI, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Yunel Escobar (11): .400/.455/.400, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
Evan Longoria (10): .333/.500/.667, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 3 walks
Sean Rodriguez (10): .333/.400/.556, 1 triple, 1 walk
Desmond Jennings (7): .400/.571/.600, 1 double, 2 walks, 1 strikeouts
Luke Scott (7): .333/.429/1.333, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 strikeout
Matt Joyce (3): .500/.667/.500, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
James Loney (3): .333/.333/.333, 2 RBI
Ryan Roberts (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout
Jose Molina was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance against Doubront. Sam Fuld and Jose Lobaton have not faced Doubront.