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Monday, July 23, 2012
Felix Doubront getting plenty of support

By John Fisher

Felix Doubront
Doubront
Felix Doubront has been a pleasant, but necessary, surprise for the Boston Red Sox this season. He’ll take the mound against the Texas Rangers on Monday Night Baseball (ESPN, 8 ET).

The Red Sox have the fourth-highest starters’ ERA in the majors this season and Doubront has the best ERA and K per 9 rate of any Sox pitcher with more than six starts. He leads the team with 10 wins, as many as All-Stars Jon Lester and Josh Beckett combined.

Doubront’s biggest weapon is his curveball. Only CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander have allowed a lower batting average against their curveball among qualified AL starters.

That pitch may not work as well in this game. The Rangers have two of the American League’s top five hitters in batting average against curveballs. Ian Kinsler is third (.409) and Michael Young is fifth (.371).

Against curveballs this season, Josh Hamilton leads the majors with six home runs, he and Kinsler are tied for the major league lead with 18 hits apiece and Hamilton’s .667 slugging percentage against the curve is seventh-best in the American League.

Doubront should be excited to hit the road, where his 3.09 ERA is more than two runs lower than his home ERA. The Red Sox are the only team in the majors with a losing record at home AND a winning record on the road.

But he’s gotten some help from the Boston offense, which leads the majors in runs scored. Doubront has received an average of 6.8 runs of support this season, tops in the majors.

In fact, the only two Sox starters with a winning record -- Doubront and Clay Buchholz -- are first and third in baseball in run support (minimum 10 starts).

Doubront has pitched well in three July starts, allowing a total of five earned runs. He’s done it with the help of his defense -- after allowing a .352 batting average on balls in play in June, his BABIP is just .200 this month.

He’s walking opponents three times as often this month as last, but he’s allowed just two home runs in July after allowing seven in June.

LOTS OF OFFENSE
The Red Sox lead the AL in runs scored and the Rangers are third. Only one team has been shut out fewer times than Texas this season.

The Rangers lead the majors in hits and batting average, are second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage and are fourth in home runs.

Despite a nine-run outburst Saturday, the Rangers offense has really struggled since the calendar turned to July. The team is just 6-9 in July after going 19-9 in June, and is averaging 3.1 runs per game in July, the worst in the American League.

STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Red Sox have the fourth-best run differential but just the 10th-best record in the American League.