After 13 2/3 innings of work against the Orioles on Sunday, the bullpen was exhausted. Fresh off the second extra-innings game in three games, the relievers needed their own relief from Doubront, who never lasted past the sixth heading into Monday.
In the 11-5 win over the Royals, Doubront came to the rescue. The rookie southpaw tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs before turning to Vicente Padilla to finish the job.
"I felt like this was a different outing for me, the first game in my big league career that I was in that situation — to protect the bullpen," said Doubront, who captured his second win of the season. "That was always in the back of my mind.
"My mentality was to go at least six or seven innings. That was my goal. I started off slow in the first few innings, but I was able to pitch the next few well. I was feeling comfortable."
The start of the outing wasn't ideal for Doubront. He was visibly frustrated with the umpire's strike zone, prompting Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine to make a trek to the mound in the first inning.
Once Doubront calmed down, he found a zone and tossed his most efficient game of the season. After five innings, he was sitting at 79 pitches, well short of the 100-pitch average in his 26 innings befored.
"Felix was excellent — gave us exactly what we needed," Valentine said. "You think about the first four hits they got, the bunt, the broken bat, the fly ball to center. He was efficient. One of the first games all year, a guy was at 45 after three and 75 after five and 90 after six and 105 after seven. He was right on chart. He was terrific."
It was an improvement from his last start against Oakland, when Doubront tossed 94 pitches through four innings. Although Doubront's numbers weren't squeaky clean, he surprised himself with the strides he made with efficiency.
"I just wanted to make quality pitches," Doubront said. "There were a lot of times where I fell behind in the count, but I was able to throw pitches to make batters swing and miss and throw strikes. The only thing missing was throwing first-pitch strikes and throwing fewer pitches. You learn something new in every start."
On Monday, the Red Sox learned they could count on Doubront to liberate the bullpen.