First of all, we honored Tek before the game for his fifteen years of service to this ballclub, city, and Nation at the plate, behind the plate, and in the clubhouse. It was awesome. The brass always does a nice job, and Tek of all people really, really deserved it. He got emotional during his speech, but then again, who wouldn’t. Papi gave him two Fenway seats, and Lester, Beckett, and Buchholz gave him the home plate from his last game. He also threw a knuckleball to Wake for the first pitch. It was just a really classy way to honor a really classy guy. We miss you, Tek. And we salute you.
If only we could have honored him further with a win. Sadly, it was not to be. Cook did not have a good night in the least. He gave up five runs, only three of them earned, on four hits over six and one-third innings pitched. He walked one and struck out one, and he threw eighty-six pitches.
He had fantastic innings in the first and second without incident. He gave up a sac fly with the bases loaded in the third that scored one unearned run thanks to a fielding error by Ciriaco. He again had stellar innings in the fourth and fifth.
And then the badness began in the sixth. After securing two quick outs, Cook handed out a free pass on five pitches and then gave up a home run. And then he gave up a solo shot to lead off the seventh. After a groundout and another fielding error, this one by Middlebrooks, which put a man on base, Cook was replaced by Morales, who secured the second out and dished out a walk before he was replaced by Albers. Albers gave up a single that scored two, both of which were scored by inherited runners, one from Cook and the other from Morales.
So there are those who say that two pitches caused Cook’s downfall last night. I would beg to differ; clearly a home run could account for one run only, and it’s not like Cook gave up only two runs, both of which happened to be homers, in which case you could claim that he only made two mistakes. That’s not what happened. Cook gave up three earned runs and two unearned runs, and it wasn’t only because he gave up two home runs. Of course, the issue of how to interpret the unearned runs is always interesting, but ultimately you have to hope that the starter is positioning the team so well that a couple of unearned runs won’t hurt it. The pitcher can’t control what errors the fielders make, but he can largely control whether runners are on base and therefore score on those errors. And those runners would have had to be there before the error, so in that sense the pitcher is responsible. Then again, you have to expect the fielders to field correctly. So it’s an interesting question. Since errors are so unpredictable and can’t necessarily be helped, I’m going to say that Cook should have been able to do more to ensure that those errors didn’t cause runs to score.
So in that sense, two pitches didn’t cause Cook’s downfall. There were many other pitches he threw before those two that had a hand in the loss, even if he did only give up three earned runs.
Some of those other pitches were thrown by the Jays, because clearly we didn’t do much with them, and that didn’t help things. Salty hit a mammoth three-run shot in the second that was totally awesome. Gonzalez singled, Ross doubled, and Salty fouled off a slider and a fastball and took a slider for a ball before getting something down and in that he knew he would hit and unleashing on that one. He sent that into the bullpen.
Padilla pitched the eighth, and Tazawa came on for the ninth. He allowed a double, a sac bunt that moved the runner to third, and then a run on a fielder’s choice. The final score was 7-3. Only two of our five hits were for extra bases, and those five hits were distributed among five of our starting nine. So there were no multi-hit games and there were not enough hit games. We even walked only twice.
So here’s the kicker. At the time, Salty’s home run gave us a three-run lead. So all these questions of how you look at the unearned runs and how many pitches caused Cook’s downfall don’t have any impact on the fact that let a three-run lead slip through his fingers. Admittedly, the offense should have done more. But so should have Cook to preserve that lead. And that’s why it was crushing, because philosophy aside, we had a lead and then we lost it, and at that point there’s really not much explaining to do.