One of the left-handers starting Wednesday's finale of the Red Sox-Giants series has been a stalwart for his team the last few months, and it's not the one who was a hero in October a year ago.
Barry Zito, the Giants veteran who came up huge last postseason, will be making his first start since July 30, taking the ball Wednesday with scheduled starter Chad Gaudin going on the disabled list Tuesday. Zito will be meeting a lefty in Felix Doubront who had been a rock for the Red Sox for a solid three-month stretch but is coming off two unimpressive starts.
It's a rubber match between teams in different places heading down the stretch. The Red Sox dropped into a tie in the American League East race with Tampa Bay after Tuesday's loss, while the Giants moved to 13 games under .500 with the win.
With the Red Sox looking for a road series victory, Doubront has delivered a lot of quality starts this year, but his last outing did not qualify. He had a run of 16 straight starts of allowing three runs or fewer before being touched for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over four innings in a loss to the Yankees his last time out.
"I was a little bit off with my mechanics, the release point of the ball," Doubront said. "My past outing was the same. I have to keep working on that."
It's important for Doubront to get back on track because there will be competition in the Red Sox rotation -- six starters going for five spots -- once Clay Buchholz returns in early September.
That Zito is back in the rotation at all, at least for one turn, is another twist in what has been a roller-coaster career with the Giants. How many more starting opportunities he'll have before his contract runs out at the end of the season is a question on the minds of many Giants fans.
While the Giants might have pitched rookie Mike Kickham, called up Tuesday as part of the Gaudin transaction, against the Red Sox, Giants manager Bruce Bochy thought it was time to use Zito where he has the most value -- as a starter.
"He went to the 'pen and I think he earned this," Bochy said. "He's a guy who's done a lot for us, if you look at last year. I know it's been an up-and-down year for him, but his stuff, coming out of the 'pen, I think has gotten better."
Red Sox: Bogaerts makes his debut
The much-anticipated debut of Xander Bogaerts, the No. 1 prospect for the Red Sox and No. 6 overall on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, was over before the game was complete, thanks in part to National League rules. Bogaerts made his first start at shortstop but was replaced by Stephen Drew on a double-switch in the bottom of the sixth after striking out in the top half.
Bogaerts, a 20-year-old who combined to hit .297 with 23 doubles, six triples, 15 HR and 67 RBIs in Double-A and Triple-A before his promotion, went 0-for-3, adding a pair of groundouts.
Giants: Bullpen gets a boost
Bochy had more relievers available to him as of Tuesday with Jean Machi and Kickham joining the staff and veteran Jeff Francoeur being designated for assignment.
Kickham has been used exclusively as a starter at Triple-A Fresno and started three of his five outings with the Giants, but he's slated for long relief. Machi, who made 33 appearances for the Giants before his most recent promotion, got the nod in part because he's the freshest Fresno reliever, Bochy said.
• The Red Sox are now 10-4 in Interleague Play, while the Giants improved to 5-11.
• Boston still leads the all-time series between the two teams, holding a 7-4 advantage over the Giants.
• The Red Sox have a day off Thursday and make their way south to meet the Dodgers in a three-game set starting Friday. The Giants head back into NL play with a visit from the NL Central-leading Pirates.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.