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.