BOSTON -- Projected as a fourth or fifth starter when the season started, Felix Doubront has instead emerged into something different entirely. After another strong performance on Memorial Day, Doubront leads the Red Sox's rotation in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
The lefty lifted the Sox to a 7-4 victory over the Tigers on Monday. Over six innings, he gave up four hits and two runs, walking one and striking out six.
Doubront is 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA. He has 56 strikeouts over 53 innings.
His solid starts have become expected.
"Felix has been a pretty consistent pitcher for us," said manager Bobby Valentine. "As we mentioned, when he has his fastball command, that two-seamer on the outside to right-handers and the inside to left-handers, he gets ahead of a lot of counts and seems like he does a pretty good job. He had that going today. He made a couple of mistakes with some power hitters, but other than that, he's a very good pitcher. He pitched well today. His curveball was pretty good today."
Considering that Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz haven't hit their stride yet and Daniel Bard is still trying to find his way as a starter, Doubront's emergence has been vital for the Red Sox, who moved back to .500 (24-24).
"Every outing I'm learning more how to approach the hitters, and today, I think I was more focused on throwing the ball for strikes and getting the hitters out quickly," said Doubront. "I was throwing the ball where I wanted and my offspeed pitch was working pretty good."
The Red Sox had a nice day with the bats. Ryan Sweeney, making his return from the seven-day disabled list, had three hits. Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued his torrid stretch by smoking a solo homer. Mike Aviles moved down to the No. 9 spot and responded with two hits and two RBIs.
Dustin Pedroia had to leave the game in the top of the sixth inning with a jammed right thumb. He will undergo additional tests, leaving his availability for Tuesday in question.
Once Doubront exited, another member of the pitching staff who has climbed way up the depth chart came through. Scott Atchison pitched two more shutout innings, striking out four.
"It's been good. I'm trying not to think about what I'm doing," said Atchison, who has a 0.93 ERA. "Just keeping the same approach, throwing strikes. Salty did great. We had them off balance pretty good and he did a good job of keeping that. We were able to mix in the fastballs when they were maybe waiting on the cutter."
Thankfully the Red Sox had a big cushion, because closer Alfredo Aceves gave up a two-run homer in the ninth for the second straight day, this one in a non-save situation against Jhonny Peralta.
"He loves to pitch," Valentine said. "He had the three days off before last night. I thought it was a little middle of the plate-ish. He still got some swings and misses, a couple of balls weren't hit exactly how I planned."
Boston jumped out quickly in this one. Adrian Gonzalez belted a two-out single to right in first and David Ortiz followed with an RBI double into the left-field corner.
Delmon Young tied it with one swing, launching a solo shot over the Monster with one out in the second inning.
The Tigers then went through an exasperating experience in the bottom of the second. Sweeney, who had been sidelined with a concussion, opened the rally with a one-out double to left. With two outs, Aviles looked like he struck out on a foul tip that catcher Gerald Laird corralled from the dirt into his mitt. First-base umpire Tim Welke ruled that Laird dropped the ball, but television supported the Tigers' argument.
"I'm pretty sure he caught it, but I'm not sure," said Aviles. "I haven't even checked the replay. I thought it might have bounced, but I don't know. The first thing I said was 'bounce.' I didn't want to strike out. I don't know anybody who wants to strike out. I honestly don't know 100 percent, but he might have caught it."
So instead of being out of the inning, Aviles had his at-bat extended and he slammed an RBI single up the middle. Daniel Nava scorched an RBI double to center that brought home Aviles, and Pedroia ripped an infield single off the glove of first baseman Prince Fielder to bring in Nava. Frustration boiled over between the second and third innings, as third-base coach Gene Lamont and manager Jim Leyland were both ejected for their vehement protest of the missed call on Aviles.
"I give them all the credit in the world," Leyland said of the Red Sox. "They took advantage of some mistakes and they took advantage of another mistake that wasn't Doug's mistake. I'm sure you'll figure that out."
Aviles definitely wasn't about to apologize for turning a potential strikeout into perhaps the key hit of the game.
"It was definitely important, because I got another swing, got a hit," Aviles said. "That one run scored there and then we ended up scoring two more right after that. It gave us a little bit of momentum. When you have three runs for Felix, it's pretty good. It helped us out and gave us that momentum, and we kept rolling from there."
Doubront gave up another solo homer -- this one to Laird -- with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
But the Red Sox opened the lead back to 6-2 when Will Middlebrooks had an RBI single in the sixth. Aviles smashed an RBI single to center in the eighth, giving his team even more insurance.