Cook uses right ingredients in second start for Sox

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Cook uses right ingredients in second start for Sox

BOSTON Barring a total calamity, Aaron Cooks second start with the Red Sox this season was virtually ensured of going better than his first.

In his first outing, May 5 facing the Orioles, Cook lasted just 2 23 innings, giving up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits and a walk with one home run. He was hurt covering home plate on a passed ball in the second inning, when his left shin was spiked opening a gash that required 11 stitches. Despite the injury, Cook stayed in the game.

But he was placed on the disabled list the next day with a record of 0-1 and a bloated 20.25 ERA.He had been working his way back since then. He was scheduled to make his second rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Pawtucket but was pulled just before game time.

In both major league starts Cook was pressed into service because of health concerns with other starters.In his first outing, he was taking the place of Josh Beckett, who was sidelined with a lat strain. On Sunday, the Sox needed him to fill in for Clay Buchholz, who has been hospitalized with gastrointestinal issues and placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 20).

Against the Braves Sunday Cook went five innings, giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits, with no walks and no strikeouts, as the Sox won, 9-4. He earned the win, improving to 1-1, lowering his ERA to 9.39. Working at a brisk tempo, Cook threw 79 pitches, 48 strikes.

Cook kept the Braves off the scoreboard through the first four innings, giving up just three this, on 55 pitches, 34 strikes.

He faltered in the fifth, though, allowing the first four batters to reach base. Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons opened the inning with singles, scoring on Eric Hinskes triple to the deepest part of center field. Juan Francisco reached on Cooks error, with Hinske scoring. But Cook got out of the inning with no further damage, turning the game over to the bullpen.

It was his first win since Aug. 11, 2011, with the Rockies against the Marlins.

Aaron Cook was, I think, even a little more than I was hoping for, said manager Bobby Valentine. Got up close to 80 pitches and really only had that one ball to center field that was hit hard. The guys on before that, a groundball and a broken bat. But he worked quickly. His sinker looked good. He elevated some balls, threw inside to left-handers a little better than I had seen him in spring training or the last time out. It was a good job.

Although he had had just one rehab start with Pawtucket -- going four innings Monday night at Syracuse, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts, throwing 66 pitches -- Cook said that was enough.

Ive been doing it a long time. So its kind of like riding a bike, he said. Once you get your pitch count up to a certain level its just a matter of going out there and executing and letting the mechanics take care of everything and thats what I was able to do today.

Im really close to 100-percent, probably 85-, 90-percent of where I was. The biggest thing would be get my pitch count back up. I was at 66 pitches in my last Triple-A start. Sunday I was at 79 pitches. So I felt really good. It was nice to get out there and pitch some quality innings and get a win today.

Cook got nine of 15 outs on groundballs, a good sign that his signature sinker is working.

Actually, I felt a lot sharper than I did my last outing down in Pawtucket, he said. So actually kind of surprised. But my sinker was working, my cutter was working, and me and catcher Kelly Shoppach got into a great rhythm early and just keep going.

With Beckett on the DL, eligible to be activated Wednesday, and Buchholz, eligible to be activated July 5 although the severity of his health concerns is not known Cook is likely to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Barring an unforeseen calamity.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

QUOTES

* "Where five days ago, he was able to harness things and command the baseball a little better, tonight that was not the case.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That was a momentum shift for us.'' - Farrell on the inning-ending double play that ended the fifth, with Mookie Betts throwing out Brett Lowrie at the plate.

* "They've done outstanding work, when our backs have been against the wall with some early exits by starters.'' Farrell on the bullpen contributions.

* "It's disappointing, (after) working hard on my mechanics the last five days.'' - Owens on his command struggles.

* "It's good to win a series, for sure, against this team.'' - Xander Bogaerts on the win.

NOTES

* Seven different Red Sox hitters produced an RBI.

* The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 and 11-4 in their last 15.

* Hanley Ramirez, who homered for the second time in his last two games, has nine RBI in his last nine games.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games.

* The Sox became the first team to beat the White Sox two games in a row at home.

STARS

1) Matt Barnes

Barnes picked up the win in relief, contributing five big outs in the middle innings and stabilizing the game for the Red Sox bullpen.

2) Dustin Pedroia

After going hitless Wednesday night in the cleanup spot, Pedroia was back in the No. 2 hole and got the Sox off on the right foot with a solo homer in the top of the first. He later added two more hits.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Returning from a one-game absence, Ramirez belted his second homer in as many games and also worked two walks, a good sign for someone who not long ago was too often expanding the strike zone.

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

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First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

CHICAGO -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

* Henry Owens doesn't throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation.

Owens's time was coming to an end anyway, what with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

But Owens may have pitched his way out of another start with his outing Thursday night. He faced 16 hitters and walked six hitters.

In every inning he began, he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. This, despite his teammates scoring runs for him in every previous half inning.

* For a team without a lot of homers, the Red Sox hit their share Thursday night.

The Sox came into the game tied for 11th in homers in the American League, then hit three in the first six innings.

Each one of the homers -- by Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley - came with the bases empty, but together, they helped the Red Sox hold off the White Sox.

Ramirez's homer was particularly encouraging, since it was his second in the last three nights, and like the one he hit on Tuesday, was hit to the opposite field.

* The bullpen picked up a lot of slack.

When the Henry Owens Walkfest mercifully ended in the fourth inning, the Red Sox still had 18 outs to get.

Heath Hembree stumbled some, allowing a run on five hits -- the first run he's allowed this season -- but Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross. Jr took it from there, chipping in for the final 4 1/3 innings, all scoreless.

Thus far this season, the Red Sox have won four games in which their starter failed to get to the fifth inning. Some of that is a tribute to the offense, which has rallied a few times to make up early deficits.

But it's also due in part to the bullpen, which has provided quality relief and bought time for the offense to catch up.

* The Sox continue to play well on the road.

Through the first four road series, the Red Sox are 4-0-1, having done no worse than a split in their road sets to date.

Learning to win on the road now can be a useful trait for this team in the second half, when the schedule has them playing far more games away from home in the final two and a half months of the season.

* Boston had a balanced offensive attack.

Every member of the starting lineup except one Thursday had either an extra-base hit or a sacrifice fly. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who continues to run hot and cold, was the only starter without one or the other, though he did have a single, walk twice and score a run.

In all, seven different players recorded one RBI.