BALTIMORE -- If this was Felix Doubront’s audition for a spot on Boston’s postseason roster, it looks like he’s headed for New Haven instead of Broadway.
The left-hander gave up five runs on five hits and three walks while retiring just four batters in Boston’s 7-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Doubront, who had made 27 starts for the Sox this season but posted a 7.53 ERA in three September starts, was instrumental in Boston losing a game in which they led by five runs for the first time this season.
Doubront had a long conversation on the field with GM Ben Cherington on Saturday, and manager John Farrell had indicated that the club had not yet decided how it was going to proceed in October with the reluctant reliever.
“Felix’s situation, Felix believes in himself, he feels worthy of being a starter," Farrell said before the game, “which is warranted. He’s had a solid year for us. We want to be sure if he’s in the bullpen in the postseason, not only is he into the role, but this is about the team, which is what we try to stress all year long, [but] even more importantly in the postseason. Whatever role you’re in, you’ve got to buy in and contribute what you can to win 11 more games starting Friday."
And how had Doubront bought in?
“Solid, but I think he sees himself as a starting pitcher. I admire that."
Doubront went 11-6 with a 4.08 ERA this season, which did not begin in promising fashion, as the Sox were upset that Doubront had not reported in prime physical shape in spring training. After he lasted just 3 2/3 innings in back-to-back starts in September, the Sox shut him down for 15 days before sending him back to the mound.
“He needed some down time, yeah," Farrell said. “It did catch up to him. For the second year in a row he’s had to take that breather late in the season. That’s where adjustments are already in place and planned for this off-season to avoid that.
“We’ve got to look at other things to adjust and that’s in the off-season. Like we talked about John Lackey, Felix has got to go through something similar. Not to say a reshaping of the body, but there’s got to be a greater foundation laid before spring training starts.
“The talent is there. We talked about it after the start in Toronto; you see more in there. He’s an extremely talented guy. We want to make sure we get the most out of him, for both him and us."
Lackey was originally scheduled to start Sunday, but with the best overall record in the league already cinched, Lackey was scratched in favor of rookie Allen Webster.
The Sox staked him to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings, the game beginning with a leadoff home run by Jacoby Ellsbury. Quintin Berry, starting in right field, hit a two-run home run in the second, and the Sox added another run in the fourth on a throwing error by Orioles catcher Steve Clevenger, who hit Ellsbury in the back with his throw after a swinging bunt. Ellsbury ran into Orioles first baseman Chris Davis on the play; the major-league leader in home runs with 53 had to leave the game with a sprained left wrist.
But the Orioles answered with a five-spot in the fifth off Doubront and Rubby De La Rosa, and went ahead for good with two runs in the sixth -- one charged to De La Rosa, the other to lefty Matt Thornton.
The Sox scored in the ninth on a single by David Ortiz, a wild pitch, and single by Mike Napoli, but Will Middlebrooks grounded into a game-ending double play against Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who was credited with his 50th save.
The Sox finish the regular season with a 97-65 record, the second Sox team in the last 35 years to win at least 97. The ’04 world champions won 98.