Boston Legacy of Aaron Cook
posted at 1/7/2013 9:11 AM EST
Cook pitched 94 innings for the Red Sox in 2012, and he allowed 59 earned runs on 117 hits. He went 4-11 with that 5.65 ERA. He was not, to put it politely, one of Boston's bright spots.
But on that Friday night at Safeco Field, none of what happened before or would happen after mattered. For those two hours and 18 minutes -- and if you want to be more specific, Cook was on the hill for roughly 53 of them -- the right-handed sinkerballer put on a pitching clinic in a 5-0 shutout.
Cook threw 81 pitches in facing 28 batters all night. (Two days later, Felix Doubront would throw 103 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. While Cook retired 27 batters in 81 pitches, Doubront recorded his 11th out of the game with his 81st pitch against the same Seattle lineup.)
Two got hits (one on the infield), and both were erased by subsequent double plays. A third reached base on a Mike Aviles error. His most laborious inning was the seventh, in which he had to throw 12 pitches. (In the other three games of that series with the Mariners, Red Sox starters combined to have six innings with 12 or fewer pitches. Cook had nine.)
His toughest batter of the night was Justin Smoak in the sixth; the Seattle first baseman was the only Mariner to get Cook to a three-ball count. He saw six pitches in the at-bat.
Cook threw 19 first-pitch strikes to 28 hitters, and 13 of his encounters lasted two or fewer pitches. One could barely blame Seattle's anemic offensive showing on its spacious ballpark: Fifteen of the 27 outs came on the ground. One ball reached the warning track.
And perhaps the greatest number of all? Zero, or how many times a Mariner swung and failed to make contact.
"I got into a really good rhythm early," Cook said. "I was commanding the ball down in the zone, and I knew they were trying to be aggressive. I depend a lot on my defense, and they played great tonight."
"He just did what he always does -- sinker, sinker, sinker," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the pitch Cook threw 73 times on Friday. "It's fun to sit there and put one finger down.... I felt like I caught five innings tonight."
It was a two-hit wonder of a performance, and a reminder that sometimes success in baseball can be straightforward -- and seemingly inexplicable.
Said Valentine after the game, "Amazing, huh?"