Cook finds rhythm, consistency a winning recipe

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Cook finds rhythm, consistency a winning recipe

SEATTLE -- On Thursday night, Felix Hernandez manhandled the Red Sox, limiting them to five hits -- all singles -- while striking out 13, trying a career high.

Friday night, Aaron Cook recorded just two strikeouts and didn't have a single swing-and-miss all night. Yet, at the end of the night, he had the exact same result as Hernandez: a complete-game shutout.

Different strokes for different folks.

Cook wasn't overpowering, but he got the Seattle Mariners to continually hit balls into the ground, recording 15 of the 27 outs on the ground, thanks to a highly effective sinker.

He needed just 81 pitches to record his 27 outs, an average of exactly three pitches per out, a ratio that most pitchers would be highly envious of. And of the 81 pitches he threw, 73 were sinkers.

Why mess with success?

"I got in a really good rhythm early,'' said Cook, 2-1. "I was commanding the ball down in the zone and I knew they were being aggressive, so I was really just trying to command the ball in the bottom of the zone and guys were playing great defense behind me.''

Cook didn't throw more than six pitches in a single at-bat all night as he recorded his third career shutout. He continually got ahead early and claimed an advantage of a Seattle lineup that was shutout for the 10th time this season.

"When you're throwing strikes early and getting them early,'' said Cook, "it definitely makes a world of difference. They're not getting comfortable at-bats and I was able to really pound the zone early and keep them swinging at the pitches I wanted them to swing at.''

The 81 pitches represents the fewest number of pitches thrown by a Red Sox starter since at least 1988.

He retired the side in order in the first, second, third, fifth, seventh and ninth innings, while getting double plays in the fourth and eighth. Only in the sixth inning, when Mike Aviles bobbled the transfer on a grounder behind second to open the inning, did Cook face more than three Seattle hitters.

"I'm the type of pitcher where I know I'm not going to have a bunch of strikeouts,'' said Cook, "and I just really want to pound the zone early (in the count) and not let them get comfortable. Usually, that's a good recipe for a low-pitch game.''

The start was the 209th of his career, and Cook, upon reflection, judged it to be his best to date.

"I think so,'' said Cook. "Looking back (at two other shutouts), this was quickest I've worked and I was definitely more efficient, so, it's probably one of the top ones.''

"He had his sinker going from the first pitch of the game,'' said Bobby Valentine, "and he was throwing it over the heart of the plate and they were swinging at it and putting the ball in play and the defense was doing everything he needed behind him. It was a great performance.''

In the first two games of this West Coast trip, the Red Sox have gotten 16 scoreless innings from two starters who weren't part of their rotation only two weeks ago.

"We've got some competition going on around here,'' said Valentine. "You never have enough good pitching and I think we're building some competition and a staff where we can give the ball to any one of many guys and think we have a chance to win.''

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.