BOSTON -- A few days ago, manager Bobby Valentine was in a meeting with his staff and someone mentioned Felix Doubront's rookie status. Valentine almost did a double-take, because the lefty carries himself in an unflappable way.
But on Tuesday night, Doubront finally slipped up on the mound, suffering a 5-3 loss to the Athletics.
Lasting just four innings, Doubront gave up six hits and five runs, walking two and striking out eight. He wasn't particularly efficient either, throwing 94 pitches.
"Well, it was a little different Felix," said Valentine. "He never really had his two-seamer tonight, it seemed to me. He's been the master of the one-ball, two-strike count. Tonight, he was behind virtually every hitter. He tried to battle through it without his real bread-and-butter."
The raw, damp and dreary conditions might have played a factor in Doubront's subpar performance.
"Just a little bit," Doubront said. "I couldn't feel my grip sometimes. I left a couple balls out of the strike zone, but just a couple pitches. I felt the ball slip out of my hand a couple times."
The game seemed to be slipping away from the Red Sox most of the night, as they were dormant offensively for the better part of eight innings.
But in the ninth, with the sold-out crowd of 37,725 down to just a smattering of hearty souls, the Red Sox threatened to pull out a memorable comeback.
Down by four runs, Cody Ross led off the frame with a double to left against A's closer Grant Balfour. With one out, Marlon Byrd ripped a single to left. Nick Punto walked to load the bases.
Up stepped Mike Aviles, and he ripped a two-run single to left. Suddenly, the Red Sox were down just 5-3.
They knocked Balfour right out of the game, as the A's turned to lefty Jordan Norberto. Lars Anderson, who was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket after the game, struck out.
That left the game in Dustin Pedroia's hands, which is always a good thing as far as the Red Sox are concerned. This time, however, Pedroia hit into a game-ending forceout.
"I think it showed a lot about the character of this team," said Aviles. "We're not going to give up. We're going to go out there and try and keep fighting. I think we're down 5-1, so it's very easy to get pretty quick outs and take it to the house. It's cold weather, nasty weather, but it shows a lot about the team. We came back and tried to give them a little fight."
A's right-hander Jarrod Parker (6 2/3 innings, four hits and one earned run) mowed right through the Red Sox for most of the night.
What was Parker's secret to containing an often explosive Boston offense?
"Just attacking down," Parker said. "I don't think you can get too hurt throwing down, and I just tried to establish that fastball early. The first time through the order, I think we may have done fastball first-pitch every time, and we did well moving it in and out."
Then there was Doubront, who never seemed in rhythm. The A's got to him right away, as Jemile Weeks led off the game with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Yoenis Cespedes belted an RBI single up the middle and Oakland had a 1-0 lead.
While the Boston bats were quiet early, Oakland extended the lead against Doubront in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki started the rally innocently enough with an infield hit. Kila Ka'aihiue followed with a walk. With two outs, Cliff Pennington delivered an RBI double and Weeks followed with a two-run single. Another run came in on a wild pitch by Doubront and Boston was in a 5-0 hole.
Parker got into a small jam in the fourth. Pedroia led off with a single to right and moved to second on a wild pitch. Adrian Gonzalez grounded out to the right side, putting Pedroia at third. David Ortiz got the run home with a fielder's-choice grounder, but the Red Sox couldn't muster anything else until the ninth.
Ultimately, they finished just one big hit away from what would have been an impressive comeback.
"I always feel good with Pedey at the plate," Valentine said. "[We] got their closer out of the game. It was a battle all the way, no doubt about it. I'll take my chances every day with him representing the go-ahead run in the ninth inning. We'll win a heck of a lot more than we'll lose."