Boston Red Sox

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.''

Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with addition of Nunez

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Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with addition of Nunez

BOSTON -- The cherub stays.

There's no way Rafael Devers is headed back to Triple-A before the homestand starts Friday, right, Dave Dombrowski? Not for the newly acquired Eduardo Nunez, who's a fine player but has nowhere near the offensive upside of Devers, the 20-year-old phenom you just rushed to the big leagues.

MORE RED SOX

You probably weren't really considering sending Devers straight back, were you now, Dave? Sometime in the 3 o'clock hour Eastern time on Wednesday morning (after a 13-inning, 6-5 loss to the Mariners), you did tell reporters in Seattle that you would need to sit down with manager John Farrell to figure out the plan at third base from here.

Likely, you're just making sure your ducks are in a row. That Nunez himself has a chance to shake hands with you, and gets to hear straight from you what he'll be doing.

That's fair. But let's be doubly sure we're on the same page.

As long as something else doesn't happen between now and then -- no other trades for third basemen, no injuries -- Devers must at least platoon at third unless he shows he can't handle it. Nunez bats right, Devers left.

But it wouldn't be crazy to let Devers have the bulk of the playing time, either, and use Nunez to spell Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. Or simply have him come off the bench.

Devers didn't look overmatched in his very first big-league game Tuesday night. On the contrary, he was patient at the plate, drawing the walk that started a sixth-inning rally against Felix Hernandez. (King Felix is quite the draw for a someone making his major-league debut, we should note.) He looked like a happy kid, and sounded like one after the game.

"For me it's just going out there and playing my brand of baseball and having fun out there," Devers told reporters through translator Daveson Perez. "That's what I was trying to do and I think I did that."

Devers finished 0-for-4 with a pair of walks, one strikeout and a run scored. He didn't make any errors and looked smooth and quick, his athleticism shining through some baby fat.

Dombrowski spoke during the last homestand about the lack of league-norm production at third base. Nunez can bring that, if nothing more. He is, at a position that's had no certainty, some form of certainty. A stable piece that can help out around the infield and has valuable versatility.

But Nunez is not what the Sox need most: A bopper.

Devers has pop. The chances he blossoms this year are not in his favor because he is the youngest player in the majors. But it would be a most strange and almost cruel choice to call the kid up for two days and then decide you don't need him because of Nunez, who entered Tuesday with the same OPS as Mitch Moreland (.745).

If you're the glass-is-half-full-type, the first four-game losing streak of the season for the Red Sox was numbed by a third-base situation that's been upgraded twofold. Let's assume the Sox know how to best deploy the two from here -- in the big leagues together, until shown a reason to change course.

Segura's single in 13th rallies Mariners past Red Sox, 6-5

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Segura's single in 13th rallies Mariners past Red Sox, 6-5

SEATTLE -- Guillermo Heredia provided the early punch with a home run, then turned an extra 90 feet into the winning run for the Seattle Mariners some four hours later.

Heredia went from first to third on a wild pitch and then came home when Jean Segura rolled an RBI single up the middle with two outs in the 13th inning to cap a two-run rally and give the Mariners a 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox in a game that ended early Wednesday morning.

"In my opinion, the biggest play in the game was him going from first to third on the wild pitch, keeping his up head up there and taking the extra base, which allowed him to score the winning run," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "A lot of crazy plays in that game, but it says a lot about the effort of our ballclub."

Mitch Haniger walked with one out in the 13th off Doug Fister (0-5), pitching his third inning, and was forced at second on Ben Gamel's fielder's choice. Heredia, who had a three-run homer in the second, singled Gamel to third. Gamel scored on a wild pitch to tie it, with Heredia advancing all the way to third. Mike Zunino then walked. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts fielded Segura's roller behind second, but his off-balance throw was way late.

"Obviously, I didn't know right away. I was aggressive on the play," Heredia said through a translator. "Once I looked back at the catcher, he was a little careless on it, I took off for third."

The Red Sox, who stranded two runners in the eighth, ninth and 11th innings, had taken a 5-4 lead in the top half when Sandy Leon singled home Hanley Ramirez with two outs off Tony Zych (5-2).

"Our bullpen did a great job of extending it, we had opportunities throughout, we fight back from 3-0, unfortunately the ending is what it is," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "It's a tough loss, particularly the way we've scuffled offensively for a period of time now."

Zunino opened the seventh inning with his 15th home run to bring Seattle even at 4-4.

The Red Sox capitalized on a sudden loss of command by starter Felix Hernandez for three runs in the sixth to erase a 3-1 deficit.

Highly touted prospect Rafael Devers, making his debut, walked to open the inning and Andrew Benintendi drew a one-out walk. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Dustin Pedroia followed with a two-run double. Pedroia advanced on Ramirez's flyout and came home on Bradley Jr.'s single.

Heredia's three-run homer off starter Drew Pomeranz staked the Mariners to a 3-0 lead in the second.

Ramirez cut it to 3-1 in the fourth with 17th home run, a two-out shot to left.

"We knew it was going to be a tight game. It got a little longer than we expected, but we'll take it," Servais said.

The 20-year-old Devers, who began the season at Double-A and then was called up Monday after just nine games at Triple-A Pawtucket, flied out to center in his first at-bat, walked, hit into a double play in the seventh, and walked again in the ninth. He struck out in the 11th to end the inning with the go-ahead run at third and flied out to center to end the 13th. He finished 0 for 4 with two walks.

"In the first inning I was very nervous, but thank God I was able to get my feet under me," Devers said through a translator. "For me, it's just going out there and playing my brand of baseball and having fun out there, that's what I was trying to do and I think I did that. I'm not happy that we lost, but I'm happy for my first big-league game.

RED SOX TRADE:

Boston acquired INF-OF Eduardo Nunez from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for minor league RHPs Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos, GM Dave Dombrowski announced mid-game. Nunez, 30, hit .308 with 20 doubles, four home runs, and 31 RBI in 76 games for the Giants this season.

RED SOX MOVES

Dombrowski also announced several moves following the game. LHP Luis Ysla, currently at Double-A Portland, was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. RHP Blaine Boyer is expected to be activated off the 10-day DL (right elbow strain) on Wednesday. ... RHP Ben Taylor is scheduled to be placed on the 10-day DL, retroactive to Sunday.

TRAINER'S ROOM:

Red Sox: RHP Joe Kelly, on the 10-day DL (left hamstring strain) is getting closer to returning. "That was an encouraging bullpen by Joe today, 25 pitches, 80 to 85 percent," manager John Farrell said. "His next bullpen will be on Friday when we get back home, so he's making pretty good progress." Kelly likely will need at one least rehab outing before returning, Farrell said.

Mariners: CF Jarrod Dyson, who sustained a hyperextended toe when crashing into the wall Saturday, missed his third straight game, but was improving.

UP NEXT:

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (12-4, 2.58) closes out the three-game series Wednesday afternoon. Sale has gone at least six innings in all but one of his 20 starts. He has not allowed an earned run in three of his last four starts. Sale leads the AL with 200 strikeouts.

Mariners: RHP Andrew Moore (1-2, 5.70) has not won in four starts since a victory in his debut on June 22. Moore, the Mariners' second-round pick in 2015, has allowed nine home runs in 30 innings.