BOSTON -- When Aaron Cooks sinker is doing what its supposed to do, Mondays performance against the White Sox is a pretty textbook result.
Cook went seven innings, allowing one run (unearned) on five hits with no walks and no strikeouts. He threw 97 pitches, 66 for strikes, lowering his ERA more than a run, from 4.37 to 3.34. Fifteen of the 21 outs Cook recorded came on ground balls.
But Cook wasnt around to earn the win. He left with the score tied, 1-1. Adrian Gonzalez three-run homer in the eighth off White Sox reliever Leyson Septimo gave the win to Vicente Padilla, who relieved Cook.
I wish that Cookie was still in the game to get the win because he deserved it, said manager Bobby Valentine. He cramped up a little after the seventh inning there and did a heckuva job, though. Got his ground balls, got his quick outs.
Cook got at least two groundball outs in every inning but the seventh, his last, when the White Sox had two fly outs and one grounder on Cooks last batter of the game.
Well, thats what he does, Valentine said. When you have that sinker you pitch to contact and hes not going to walk anyone. Very few guys are going to get on with a free pass. I know hes going to pound that zone with a pitch that moves down and to try to get them to hit the top of the ball. You saw in the seventh inning they hit the bottom of the ball a couple times and thats a sign. But he had a really good sinker tonight. And his other pitches were pretty good too except for the one he threw to A.J. Pierzynski second-inning single to right there, kind of curveball didnt work very well.
Cooks pace, along with that of White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod, was a major factor in the crisp, 2-hour, 40-minute pace.
I was able to get in a good rhythm and pound the ball in the strike zone with my sinker, Cook said. I knew they were going to be an aggressive team. I had a chance to face them a lot in spring training when I was in Arizona with the Rockies so I knew a lot of their hitters and me and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia really got on a good page and another game, no strikeouts, my defense played great behind me.
Actually the pace tonight was pretty much where I wanted it to be. It was pretty hot and humid out there and working a little bit slower. I really like to get the ball, get on the mound, kind of typical of like Mark Buehrle would do, just pound the strike zone and try to get the hitters unconformable. I kind of joked around that I have a two-hour attention span so I like to get it over with quick.
Since returning from the disabled list on June 24 against the Braves, Cook has a 1.67 ERA, allowing five earned runs over 27 innings.
Holding the White Sox to no walks gives him a tremendous advantage, Cook said.
I think thats the thing you kind of learn as youre coming up--make your pitch in the strike zone and get the hitters swinging the bat, he said. I was working really good at keeping the ball off the barrel of their bat today and when I can do that I can be successful.
The White Sox scored their lone run in the first inning. With lefthander Adam Dunn batting, and Kevin Youkilis on first base with a single, the Red Sox employed the infield shift. On Dunns groundout to Pedro Ciriaco at second base, Youkilis took second . But with Will Middlebrooks still off third, Youkilis broke for third. Gonzalezs errant throw to Middlebrooks sailed into left field, allowing Youkilis to come home, scoring an unearned run off Cook.
Kind of the way it all happened it was kind of weird but we were able to rebound late in the game and come back and score runs and as long as we win thats all that matters, Cook said.
Youkilis went 3-for-3 with a run scored off Cook, a harkening back to their high school days in the Cincinnati area.
We were on the same traveling team for three years -- 13, 14 and 15 -- and then we played against each other all through high school, Cook said. So today is pretty typical of what hes done off me the whole way through. I was just happy to keep him in the ballpark. In high school he hit a couple of homers off me.
In his five starts with the Sox, spanning 29 23 innings, Cook has recorded just two strikeouts and two walks. He is 2-2 in those outings, while the Sox are 3-2.
He is the first Sox pitcher with multiple starts of five innings or more with no walks and no strikeouts since Bob Stanley did it twice in 1979. He is the first pitcher to do so twice in one season at Fenway since Ted Wingfield in 1925.
Cook is the third Sox pitcher since 1918 to strike out two or fewer while walking one or fewer in five consecutive games, joining Bill Lee (six in 1975 and 77) and Jack Russell (five, twice in 1929).
He looks at those numbers as a kind of honor.
Me and Josh Beckett kind of joke, Cook said. Hes got a streak of 200-some games consecutive with the strikeout and Im going to go in the other direction, see if I can get 200 without one.