Revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, it wasn’t cold last night, but we certainly did take our revenge. It was awesome. I don’t think anyone was expecting it, but with this team these days I guess you should simply expect the unexpected. The success we’ve been able to derive from the most unlikely of places is really a breath of fresh air, and I just hope we keep up the great work.
I don’t think anyone thought that Cook would deliver the start he did. Certainly not during Spring Training before the season started, and probably not now either. Cook pitched a complete game shutout with no walks. That means that, had he not given up his two hits, he would have had himself a no-hitter! (It wouldn’t have been a perfect game because of an error by Aviles, which resulted in a baserunner in the sixth aside from those two hits. Each of those hits was accompanied by a double play, so thanks to that error, he faced twenty-eight batters instead of the minimal twenty-seven.) I saw it with my own eyes, and I still couldn’t quite believe what was going on. More than that, I couldn’t believe he did it with only two pitches: a sinker and a curveball. He threw more than seventy sinkers, and less than ten curveballs and was brutally efficient, ending the night having thrown a grand total of only eighty-one pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes. I mean, we’ve seen some regular starters have games where they need more than eighty-one pitches just to get through five innings.
It was amazing. He was amazing. He threw six pitches in the first, eight in the second, twelve in the third, only five in the fourth, eleven in the fifth, ten in the sixth, twelve in the seventh, nine in the eighth, and eight in the ninth. His variation of speeds wasn’t as complete as it would have been if he’d thrown more pitches, but it was enough. His maximum sinker speed was about ninety-one miles per hour, and his maximum curveball speed was about seventy-seven.
He faced the minimum in all but that sixth inning; he gave up his first hit, a single, in the fourth but erased it with a double play, and the same happened in the eighth. Here’s a breakdown of all of his outs: two called strikeouts, two double plays, four popouts, five flyouts, eleven groundouts, and a lineout to end the whole thing.
For the first four innings, our hitters looked a lot like the Mariners did against Cook, so I was preparing to steel my nerves for another epic duel. But then the fifth happened, and it was clear that that wouldn’t be necessary.
Middlebrooks and Ross smacked back-to-back jacks to lead off the fifth. Middlebrooks went yard on his fifth pitch, a slider, which ended up in the left field stands. Ross went yard on his fourth pitch, a fastball, which ended up in the upper deck in left. Two easy outs later, Nava just unleashed on his fourth pitch, also a fastball, also clocked at ninety-two miles per hour, which needed up far back in the right field stands.
Papi led off the very next inning with a double, and then Salty went yard! It was the first pitch of the at-bat, and he had its number all the way. It was also a ninety-two mile-per-hour fastball, and it ended up in left center field. Both swings looked quick, easy, and pretty perfect, if you ask me.
We went down in order again in the seventh and eighth. We loaded the bases in the ninth with a single, double, and walk, but Pedroia lined out with two out to end the threat.
We won by a final score of five-zip. That means that all of our runs were scored via the long ball. Six of our nine hits were for extra bases, and four of those were the home runs. Middlebrooks had the team’s only multi-hit game; he went two for four. Salty was the only member of the team that batted in more than one run; he batted in two. Defensive highlights include Pedroia’s classically awesome double play with one out in the eighth to end it; he dove to corral the ball and threw it, still prone on the ground, to second to get it started.
But the man of the hour was obviously Cook. He was leading a clinic out there. I would say it had to have been one of the best starts of his entire career. It was certainly one of the best starts any of us have ever seen. In fact, since pitch count research started in 1988, no other Boston pitcher has been able to throw a nine-inning complete game of any kind, shutout or not, with eighty-one pitches or less. It outdoes Roger Clemens’s eighty-six-pitch one-hitter complete game that same year. It’s not something that’s new for cook, though; he’s pitched three other complete games with less pitches than this one. Ultimately, this game has reminded us just how good Cook is capable of being. All of his perseverance, determination, and hard work certainly have paid off so far, and we hope that this will continue.