ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For both Aaron Cook and Jacoby Ellsbury, the 2012 season has been one to forget.
Cook came into Monday's start having won just once in his last dozen outings and Ellsbury, a season removed from finishing second in the American League MVP voting, missed most of the first half of the season and hasn't gotten untracked since returning.
But for one night, Cook and Ellsbury had something to celebrate. The former limited the Tampa Bay Rays to a single run over six innings while the latter slammed a two-run homer and later added a run-scoring single in the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cook faced one batter over the minimum through the first four frames before being nicked for a run in the fifth. But he rebounded to get through the sixth, then turned it over the bullpen for the final nine outs.
"It felt really good," said Cook of just his second victory since June 29. "Anytime you can win a game...we played really well tonight and it's nice to shake hands after a game."
Cook had pitched well enough to win any number of his recent starts. In three of his previous four outings, he had allowed three runs or fewer, but came out of those with two losses and a no-decision.
But throughout, he tried not to let the frustration get to him.
"It's one of those things I try to put out of my mind," he said. "I just go out there and try to be myself every start and give us a chance to win some baseball games."
Cook, whose trademark pitch is his sinker, relied more on a cutter Monday night, just to give the Rays a different look.
"I usually don't throw those many," he said. "But I got in a good rhythm early, against an aggressive team and was able to make some good pitches. I know that some of those guys were looking to get out over the plate with my sinker and (the cutter) is one of those pitches that can really open up the outside part of the plate when I keep them honest inside."
Meanwhile, Ellsbury came into the game hitting just .267 with just 12 RBI in his last 32 games, a far cry from 2012 when he finished with 32 homers and 105 RBI. His slugging percentage was an anemic .367 before Monday.
Ellsbury had to effectively start his season twice -- once in the beginning of year with everyone else, then again around the All-Star break, when he returned after missing three months with a separated shoulder.
He's only now beginning to feel like himself at the plate.
"I feel the more at-bats I get," he said, "the better I'm going to be. I knew it was a matter of time. I (just had to) stay with my approach, work hard and do what I normally do. You're basically starting over (when you return from an extended layoff). When you miss that much time, it's basically an off-season. Coming back, pitchers are in mid-season form and you have play catch-up.
"I know if I get my season's worth of at-bats, my numbers will where they need to be. Unfortunately, I can't get those at-bats back. So from here on out, the rest of the year, I'll just go out and and try to be as consistent as I can. I know good things are going to happen."