BALTIMORE — Felix Doubront was asked how he felt after making 29 starts this season and throwing 161 innings.
The 24-year-old lefthander smiled.
"Tired," he said.
And why not? Doubront had never thrown more than 129 innings in a season before and that came in 2008 in Single A ball.
The good news for the Red Sox is that Doubront finished strong. He allowed nine earned runs on 16 hits over 26 1/3 innings in his last four starts and struck out 31.
"When a young guy improves right up until the last day of the season, I think that's a good thing," Bobby Valentine said.
Don't dwell too much on Doubront being 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA. Look instead at the 167 he struck out in those 161 innings and the 162 hits he allowed. There's a lot to build on there.
"I thought he was obviously one of our best pitchers all year long," Valentine said.
Said Doubront: "A lot of challenge; a lot of learning from this season. It was a pretty good season for me. First full year and I figured out something for next year ... One of my goals was to finish strong. I learned a lot of things about the game, about pitching. That's the most I'm proud of."
Doubront lost the game in the seventh inning Saturday night when impressive Baltimore rookie Manny Machado lined a fastball just over the fence in left field. He otherwise pitched pretty well, allowing four runs (three earned) over seven innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts.
Doubront arrived at spring training as one of a large group of pitchers fighting for a spot in the rotation. He was out of minor league options, too. Six months later, he has established himself as part of the team's rotation going forward.
"I was pretty confident. I came to spring training to win that spot," Doubront said.
"He's really started to mature and see what he's really all about," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He knows he's good, he just got to go out there and continue to pitch well. That's exactly what he has done. He has proved to everybody what he needed to prove."
Meanwhile . . .
• The Fighting Showalters are tied with the Yankees in the AL East at 91-67 with four games to play. The O's are an amazing 28-9 in one-run games. They're also 72-0 when leading after seven innings.
• The Sox have lost four straight and eight of nine. At 69-89, they are back in last place. The Sox have not lost 90 games since 1966.
• Salty has 25 homers, 23 of them coming as a catcher. The Sox record for catchers is 26 by Pudge Fisk in 1973 and '77. Fisk started 149 games behind the plate in 1977, by the way.
• Junichi Tazawa did what Junichi Tazawa does and pitched a scoreless eighth inning. His last 13 appearances are, well, dominant: 12 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 17 K.
• The Sox will pitch Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and (gulp) Daisuke Matsuzaka against the Yankees next week. New York will go with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova (or David Phelps) and Hiroki Kuroda.
• The Sox are 7-18 in September with four games left. They were 7-20 last September.
• The Sox were watching the Yankees-Blue Jays game this afternoon. At one point, David Ortiz correctly predicted eight consecutive pitches Boone Logan would throw and got the location right six times.
"Think I've seen a lot of lefties?" he said. "But you have to be able to hit it, too."
• Sellout crowd of 46,311 at Camden Yards. It has been fun walking around the city and seeing so many people in orange and black and looking forward to a late-season game. This used to a great baseball city and this team has reignited some passion.
Wouldn't it be something if the Orioles and Nationals made it to the World Series?