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Extra Bases

Step back costs Sox, Doubront chance to move forward in loss to Rangers

The consecutive walks that followed, not to mention the long home run included among the five hits that had preceded it in the Rangers rally, suggested it probably wasn’t going to be a long night for Felix Doubront, anyway. But had Grady Sizemore made a better read of Donnie Murphy’s third-inning blooper, Tuesday might not have been the shortest inning of the Red Sox lefty’s big-league career, either.

And Boston might’ve had a more realistic chance of coming all the way back in what became a 10-7 defeat at Fenway Park.

Texas had already taken a 3-0 lead on the strength of Robinson Chirinos’ clear-everything blast to left and two-out hits from Prince Fielder (on a chopper that turned into a double) and Adrian Beltre. But after another single to Alex Rios, it looked as though Doubront just might wiggle out of further damage.

With runners on first and second he got ahead of Murphy, then induced a high popup that the Rangers second baseman sent floating toward center field. It hung up plenty long enough for a play to be made, about 4.9 seconds, but with Murphy having taken a big cut at the pitch Sizemore’s initial move was to take a hard step backward. Next, he froze in tracks as he began to doubt his first step.

And by the time he realized the ball was much shallower than he believed it to be off the bat, it was too late. He came sprinting forward, then made a diving attempt, but the ball landed beyond his reach. It bounced behind him, and before shortstop Xander Bogaerts could retrieve it Beltre had scored. Rios scooted to third as Murphy moved up to second with a gift of a double.

Had Sizemore made the catch the inning would’ve ended with the Sox trailing 3-0, and with Doubront presumably coming back out for the fourth, when he would’ve been facing the bottom third of the Rangers’ order. Instead it was 4-0, he was getting tired, and after a couple of walks forced home the run that made it 5-0, the southpaw was sent to the showers in favor of Burke Badenhop.

“That ball that fell into center field, it certainly extended the inning,” said manager John Farrell. “Just had a tough time getting that third out in the third.”

And so Doubront exited after surrendering six hits, three walks, and five earned runs on 59 pitches (31 strikes) in 2.2 innings. By failing to finish the third inning for the first time in 61 career starts, his earned run average ballooned to 9.00 in two starts this season.

“I was feeling good,” Doubront said. “Really good in the first inning -- the first two innings. … As far as explaining it, I don’t know what happened.”

The Sox wound up hammering out 14 hits on the night, and scored seven runs despite grounding into five double plays, so maybe the whole night -- not just Doubront's night -- might've been different had the third inning been thwarted with Murphy's fly on Tuesday, which marked the second consecutive game in which both Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. started for the Sox, each time with Sizemore playing center as Bradley shifted over to right field.

Sizemore is more accomplished at the position, having won two gold gloves while with the Indians, but as injuries disrupted his final three seasons in Cleveland, metrics suggest it took a toll on his defense. In each of those three campaigns his ultimate zone rating (UZR) was in the negative, indicating that his play was worse than the league average.

Never in that stretch did he play 100 games in a season, so sample size must be acknowledged when considering that number – though if both Bradley (2-for-4) and Sizemore (3-for-4) continue to hit the way they have been the past couple nights, it could be interesting to see if the Sox eventually consider using Bradley at the position he’s played in 181 of his 193 career minor-league games.

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