Thursday, August 16, 2012
Cook self-destructs as hard-luck Sox fall
By Jeff Seidel, Special to ESPNBoston.com
BALTIMORE -- The gods of baseball can be so cruel at times.
Boston Red Sox starter Aaron Cook can attest to that. He spent five innings working on a no-hitter but then, in a matter of minutes, lost it and then the game thanks mostly to an error on a play he has probably made or practiced hundreds of times.
Aaron Cook was great through five before hurting his cause in the sixth.
Cook tried to start an inning-ending double play in the sixth after gloving an Adam Jones grounder. Instead, his throw to second wound up in the outfield. No double play. Not even one out -- E-1.
That opened the door for the Baltimore Orioles to score five runs and turn the game around. And another night of frustration ended for the Red Sox as Baltimore escaped with a 5-3 win.
Cook spent the first five innings of Wednesday's game with the Orioles by shutting them down with a nasty sinker. They kept beating ball after ball into the ground as Cook carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
How good was Cook at first? The numbers tell the story. He didn't give up a hit through those first five innings, letting the Orioles put just one ball in the air as that sinker worked its magic.
"I felt like I was throwing the ball well and doing what I needed to do," Cook said.
The success of the sinker made Baltimore manager Buck Showalter just shake his head. His Orioles (64-53) knew what was coming, and they couldn't do much about it.
"Guys that pitch like him make a living out of making the ball appear as a strike and taking it off the sweet part of the bat," Showalter said. "You're going to have some guys aggressive, and usually the higher levels they go to -- the more plays because guys are aggressive. They're good hitters. I've seen a lot of sinkerballers over the years like that. Their pitch count's low because they're always a pitch away from getting two outs with one pitch."
That described Cook (3-6) through the first five innings and set up what happened in the sixth. Sinker after sinker gave the right-hander ground ball after ground ball. Cook stuck almost exclusively with the sinker all night, and it let him go through the game the way Showalter described.
Cook needed just 54 pitches through five innings, battling against Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-2). How smooth was Cook? The right-hander threw just eight pitches in the first, six in the third and 12 in the fourth.
But then came the sixth. With one out and a 2-0 lead, Cook walked Nick Markakis. J.J. Hardy ruined the no-hitter with a clean single to left, and Nate McLouth singled to make it 2-1.
Then came the game-changing play.
Jones rapped a grounder right back through the middle. Cook initially made a good play, reaching out and snagging it. He then quickly turned to fire -- and threw the ball far wide of second and into left-center.
Things didn't end well for the Sox or Bobby Valentine, who was ejected.
That let Hardy score to tie the game and kept the Orioles alive.
"It's a play I've made 100 times," Cook said in the quiet Boston locker room afterward. "I just didn't get my feet set. We lost because I made an error."
Matt Wieters added an RBI double and Cook left. Mark Reynolds later belted a two-run double to left to give the Orioles a 5-2 lead in the inning.
Boston manager Bobby Valentine, dealing with his own problems in recent days, clearly felt bad for Cook. His pitcher allowed five runs (two earned) on three hits in 5 1/3 innings, but his one mistake proved so costly.
"He really pitched well for the five innings and was fielding his position really well during that time, and just had a misplay [that] could have got us out of the inning," Valentine said. "We didn't turn a double play, gave up a double and then, next thing you know, we're down by a few runs."
And everything got worse after that. Carl Crawford's RBI grounder cut the lead to 5-3 in the seventh, but the Red Sox saw Valentine and Adrian Gonzalez ejected in the eighth.
Gonzalez was upset because he felt Baltimore right-hander Pedro Strop quick-pitched him on a 1-2 count. The first baseman grounded out and gave plate umpire Mike Everitt a few comments afterward.
The umpire then threw Gonzalez out, only his second career ejection.
"I wasn't even set," Gonzalez said. "I was just sitting there waiting for him to come set so I can get into my stance. We're trying to win a game. When I went back, I just said I wasn't ready to hit, don't take the at-bat away from me."
Valentine agreed with Gonzalez and felt Strop quick-pitched. He went out to argue with Everitt, who tossed him too.
Two ejections, one costly error, and the Red Sox (57-61) went just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left six on base.
The baseball gods truly weren't smiling on the Red Sox once again.