BOSTON -- In Aaron Cooks first five starts this season, spanning 29 23 innings, he gave up just two home runs, one in his first start and one in his fourth start.Since then, though, he has given up six home runs, two in each of his last three starts, spanning just 15 innings. Wednesday night against the Tigers, Cook gave up back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning on consecutive pitches, a mammoth two-run shot to Miguel Cabrera over the left field wall and a solo home run to Prince Fielder to straightaway center.Cook took the loss as the Sox fell to the Tigers, 7-5, at Fenway Park.Ive been missing location with my pitches, he said. Unfortunately, I think Im on one of those streaks that Ive never had in my career where Ive given up multiple home runs in three games in a row now. So just those situations I might need to bear down a little harder and make sure that Im definitely down in the zone because if Im still down in the zone, theyre hitting balls on the ground. I think the outcome of the games totally different.Cook seemed to be handling the Tigers with relative ease early in the game. Through the first three innings, he gave up just two hits a first-inning Miguel Cabrera single, and a third-inning Ramon Santiago single.But Cook began to struggle in the fourth. He hit Quintin Berry with a pitch to open the inning. With Cabrera at bat, Cook picked Berry off first and then got Cabrera to fly out to Ryan Kalish in right field. But Prince Fielder doubled off the wall in left, scoring on Brennan Boeschs single to center.Cook unraveled in the fifth. He gave up consecutive singles to Alex Aviles and Jhonny Peralta to open the inning. Each moved up on Santiagos sacrifice bunt. Avila scored on Austin Jacksons single to left with Peralta scoring on Berrys groundout. Jackson moved up to third when Cook unleashed a wild pitch, but that quickly became moot when Cook hung a curveball to Cabrera who launched a titanic shot over the Green Monster, scoring Jackson, for his 26th home run of the season. On Cooks next pitch Fielder homered into the first row of seats in the center field bleachers.That ended Cooks outing.Well, Cookie got some ground balls and they got some men on base and then two outs, two strikes he thought he could bounce a curveball and he didnt bounce it, manager Bobby Valentine said. And the big boy deposited it. Just looking for that groundball at someone, just didnt happen that inning.Cabrera is 5-for-10 (.500) with five RBI, a double, and a home run in his career against Cook, including going 2-for-3 in this game.The biggest problem was hanging a breaking ball to one of the best hitters in the game, Cook said. He had a long at-bat and I tried to do something a little different. Hung a curveball and thats what hes supposed to do with that type of pitch. Other than that, I can live with the groundballs getting through and scoring runs here and there. But when Im making bad pitches to the best hitters in the game and just leaving them up, they did exactly what theyre supposed to do with those pitches.He left a curve ball up with two strikes to Cabrera and then the first pitch (to Fielder) was a curveball, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. We didnt expect the guy to swing first-pitch curve ball after a home run.Cook went 4 23 innings, giving up six runs on nine hits with two home runs, a wild pitch, and a hit batter. He took the loss, dropping his record to 2-5 while his ERA rose from 4.50 to 5.24.For the third time this season, Cook did not record a walk or a strikeout. Although Cook is a groundball pitcher and pitches to contact, not recording a strikeout isnt necessarily a good thing.Five of the nine hits he allowed including the home runs came with two outs. Six of the nine hits the first four hits he gave up, Jacksons single in the fifth, and Cabreras home run -- came with two strikes on the batter. Not having a put-away pitch can be a detriment.We all wish that he had a pitch that with two strikes would be a swing-and-miss pitch, especially some of those guys he had two strikes and they just kept fouling them off, Valentine said. So, yeah, thats what you live with with a contact pitcher. He works quick and doesnt walk people. A lot of times those groundballs find holes.In his last three starts, Cook is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA. Valentine was not ready to make any declarations on Cooks future in the rotation.Were dealing with the Josh Beckett situation right now with the rotation, Valentine said, of Becketts ailing back.But he is concerned. In Cooks last three starts, his longest outing was six innings against the Blue Jays on June 21. He hasnt been able to get through five innings in his last two starts. He gave up six earned runs in each of his last two games.The home runs are a concern. Length of game, Valentine said. That was a real tight rope walk with the bullpen there. Guys did a good job.For his part, Cook said he has not lost confidence.No, confidence-wise that doesnt really shake me, he said. I know what Im doing out there. I know what happened and why it happened. I still feel strong and still feel healthy. Its just a matter of in those certain situations not making those bad pitches and just bearing down because like I said I feel like Ive only been making three or four bad pitches a game but theyve been resulting in four, five runs on the other side. So, I just really got to make sure to bear down and pitch a little bit smarter.
Not that they need him -- they have other, far more pressing needs than starting pitching -- but the Red Sox couldn't get Yu Darvish, the subject of trade rumors with the deadline approaching, even if they wanted to.
Per Ken Rosenthal:
Yu Darvish’s 10-team no-trade list, per sources: BAL, BOS, CHC, CLE, COL, CWS, DET, OAK, PIT, TOR. Free to go to LAD, NYY, HOU, all others.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 26, 2017
Interesting that last year's two World Series participants, the Cubs and Indians, are with the Red Sox on Darvish's no-trade list, which indicates he made these decisions based on factors other than chasing a ring.
The Sox' biggest worry, of course, is that the Rangers will trade Darvish to the Yankees, who are short of starting pitching. But the talk more and more is that Texas -- light years behind Houston in the A.L. West race but only 4 1/2 games back of Kansas City for the second wild-card spot -- will hold onto its ace right-hander at least until the end of the season.
BOSTON -- Savor Sale. And maybe save him, too.
Down the stretch, the Red Sox could have some tough choices to make with Chris Sale, who’s on his way to having a great all-time season, particularly for a starting pitcher this century.
Should the Red Sox let the lefty loose on Pedro Martinez’s club record of 313 strikeouts and 13.20 Ks per nine innings, both set in 1999? Or, if at all possible, should the Sox hold Sale back some nights, with an eye on preservation and the postseason?
If Sale keeps up his present pace, he’s taking down Pedro in total Ks.
After Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Mariners, Sale is 21 starts into the year and has 211 strikeouts. He leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings, at 12.80, and is averaging seven innings per start. A projected schedule for the rest of his season, one that’s just a guess and works in several turns on five days rest, has a dozen starts remaining for Sale. That would give him 33 on the season.
If each one lasts seven innings, he’d finish with about 232 1/3 innings in the regular season and 330 strikeouts (based on his performance so far).
Those whiffs come at a cost, though. Sale is averaging a major league-high 110 pitches per game after 115 tosses Wednesday. Justin Verlander is the next closest, at 107 1/3 pitches per outing.
If the American League East stays tightly packed, there may be no way the Sox can reasonably afford Sale breaks. They’re already making an effort to get him five days rest rather than the normal four.
But if there are nights when the Sox can comfortably keep Sale’s pitch count closer to 100, or pull him after six innings rather than seven, should they?
Most players and teams would say the postseason is what everyone plays for. Sale all year has avoided talking about the Ks.
“I have a job to do,” Sale told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday after fanning 11. “I’m not here for strikeouts. I’m here to get wins. That’s all that really matters at the end of the day, honestly.”
It’s not all that matters, though. People want to see history made. Red Sox fans might even tune in for it. (Secretly, Sale might even like the idea.)
Sale, the modern-day Randy Johnson, has not allowed a run in 20 2/3 scoreless innings since the All-Star Break, a span of three starts. He has a 1.04 ERA in July with 56 strikeouts. Every one of his road outings this year has included at least nine strikeouts, and 14 of his 21 starts overall have featured 10 or more.
Unsurprisingly, the only Sox pitcher with more double-digit strikeout games in a season is Martinez, who had 19 in 1999 and 15 the next year. The last time any pitcher had 14 double-digit K games was 2002, when Curt Schilling had 14 and the Big Unit had 15.
Records may fall, but there's a balancing act waiting to unfold.