Cook does his part, lets fielders do rest

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Cook does his part, lets fielders do rest

BOSTON When things are going well for Aaron Cook he knows just about all he has to do is throw his sinker, induce groundballs, and let his defense do its job.

That was the game plan he employed Monday against the Rangers to earn the win, as the Red Sox beat Texas, 9-2.

Cook went seven innings, giving up one run on six hits and three walks with two strikeouts, improving to 3-5 with a 4.70 ERA.

Fifteen of Cooks 21 outs came on groundballs.

He gave us seven innings, and less hits than innings pitched, said manager Bobby Valentine. Got a couple of strikeouts. Had those balls directed properly and the defense played great behind him. He also executed a perfect pick-off play which I thought was big in the game.

His outing was much different than his last three, when he gave up a total of six home runs in 15 innings, taking the loss in all. Prior to that, he had given up just two home runs in his previous five starts.

I thought he and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia actually mixed up some of the pitches well and he had really good command of the outside corner tonight, Valentine said. Established some inside where he got them quick. It looked like he had really good command of the outside with a little cutter and his sinker.

Texas had runners on base in each of Cooks seven innings except the sixth. In almost every instance he used his sinker to get out of the jams, inducing a ground ball to end the inning.

Well, I think any time I have my sinker working and guys are playing great defense behind me, thats a recipe for success, Cook said. I was just really focused on staying at the bottom of the zone as much as possible tonight, even when getting guys on. Pound the ball in the zone and let the guys play defense behind me. That's pretty much my approach every time I take the mound.

The only exceptions: He picked Nelson Cruz off second base with a slick move in the fourth inning, and got Mitch Moreland to line out to Dustin Pedroia to end the seventh.

The potent Rangers seemed to hit Cook harder earlier in the game before he settled in. He faced six batters in the second, holding the Rangers to just one run on three hits and a walk.

I think the first couple innings I was a little flat, he said. I was throwing the ball probably a little bit harder than I needed to. I really just got with Salty and was like lets just pound the bottom of the zone and not worry about anything else. And thats really when my ball started moving more and you could tell that I was getting that movement that I need to be successful.

It may have been one of the six outs he got that wasnt on a grounder that helped.

With the Sox holding a slim one-run lead going into the fourth inning, Cook gave up a lead-off, ground-rule double to Nelson Cruz. After one pitch to the next batter, David Murphy, Cook picked Cruz off second base. The move seemed to give the Sox a jolt of energy while deflating the Rangers. Cook got out of the inning without giving up a run. The Sox added three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Something I take a lot of pride in is controlling the running game and me and shortstop Mikey Aviles have talked about it all year, Cook said. We worked on it in spring training. Any time somebody gets on we dont have a sign. Its kind of one of those things, we both feel it.

And I told him if he goes, he better keep going because Im going to turn around and throw it and if hes not there, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is going to be chasing it. But we were both on the same page. And after that double right there, being able to pick the guy off, it just kind of calms the inning down, lets me take a deep breath, and I think guys just really had a lot of energy after that.

Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

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Sox may have finally found their everyday third baseman for the postseason

BOSTON — As has been well-documented, the Red Sox have tried any number of solutions at third base this season, with eight different players getting starts at the position.

Travis Shaw has the most starts of anyone, with 99. But with three games left in the season, it's become apparent that Brock Holt is being viewed as the likely starter in the post-season.

Holt started all three games in the recent series in New York and was the starter Friday night against Toronto, too.

"You look at the consistent quality to the at-bats," said John Farrell, "and they've been there for him. That's not to say the other guys aren't important to us. But this is the time of year where you're looking to put the best, current lineup on the field and his versatility has shown up a number of ways. He's a confident defender at third base and his skill set is a little bit different from the other guys.

"So against righthanded pitching, that could be the guy we're going with."

Holt came into Friday hitting .319 (22-for-69) in the last 24 games.

Shaw, meanwhile, has been streaky to a fault. In the second half of the season, Shaw has posted a slash line of .195/.260/.362.

"We've seen (the streakiness both ways) in short spurts," Farrell said. "He does have the ability to carry us. But we're trying to get there and we're at a point in the year where every game is meaningful. That's not to say you turn your back on what he did earlier in the season. But we're looking for sparks somewhere."

What's more, Farrell had Holt hitting second in the lineup, in an effort to produce more offense. The Sox were limited to just eight runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium, and over the last 11 games, scored more than five runs just once.

Holt hit second, with Xander Bogaerts dropped to sixth.

"This is to create a little bit of a spark for us offensively," explained Farrell. "We've been grinding a little bit. And also, (we want) to create a little more (left-right) balance up and down the lineup."

TIME TO PLAY

As the final few regular season games of his career wind down, David Ortiz acknowledged that it's becoming increasing difficult to focus on the games with all the tributes and ceremonies going on.

In the final 11 days of the season, Ortiz will have had five pre-game ceremonies held in his honor -- and it would have been six had not Ortiz asked the Tampa Bay Rays to cancel the ceremony they had planned in the aftermath of the death that morning of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

On Thursday night, Ortiz has his family on the field for a pre-game celebration hosted by the New York Yankees.

Minutes later, he had to step in to the batter's box against CC Sabathia. Sometimes, it's hard to flip that switch and be emotionally ready to compete.

"I'm not going to lie to you -- it has (gotten harder)," said Ortiz. "We're already in the playoffs, so for the next three days, I don't really have to worry about it. But the best thing about it is that once we get into the playoffs, there's not going to be all these distractions.

"I like to mentally focus when we play, especially when I'm playing for a reason. We work extremely hard during the regular season to get into the playoffs and once we get there, I don't want to blow that off. It's not easy to (do all the ceremonies) and play baseball at the same time. It can be a distraction."

Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

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Friday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: Porcello goes for win No. 23

The A.L. East-champion Red Sox, still fighting for playoff position, field their usual lineup as they open David Ortiz's final regular-season series tonight (7:10) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox (92-67) are two games behind the Texas Rangers (94-65) in the race for the best record in the A.L., with the Cleveland Indians (91-67) a half-game behind Boston.

Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11 ERA), the likely Game 1 starter in the ALDS, will try to add to his Cy Young Award resume tonight. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.53).

The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (both 87-72) are tied for the A.L. wild-card lead with the Detroit Tigers (85-73) 1 1/2 games back.

It’s the final regular season series for Oritz, with ceremonies planned to honor the retiring Red Sox DH prior to each of the final three game this weekend. 

The lineups:

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Brock Holt 3B

Mookie Betts RF

David Ortiz DH

Hanely Ramirez 1B

Xander Bogaerts SS

Jackie Bradley CF

Sandy Leon C

Andrew Benintendi LF

Rick Porcello P

 

BLUE JAYS

Eziquiel Carrera LF

Josh Donaldson 3B

Edwin Encarnacion DH

Jose Bautista RF

Russell Martin C

Troy Tulowitzki SS

Justin Smoak 1B

Kevin Pillar CF

Devon Travis 2B

Marco Estrada RHP