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Closing Time: Cookie crumbles as Red Sox lose to Blue Jays

07.21.12 at 10:27 pm ET
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Aaron Cook allowed five runs (three earned) in six-plus innings en route to a loss on Saturday (AP)

Aaron Cook pitches to contact. That is his strength — allowing him to operate as one of the most efficient pitchers in baseball when on his game, frustrating opposing lineups as they mash one ball after another into the ground — and his vulnerability. When his signature two-seam fastball does not drop like an anvil when reaching the plate, opponents can batter it into oblivion.

For five innings in which Cook allowed just one unearned run, the former was the case, as he recorded 10 groundball outs while managing a 3-1 advantage. But in the next two innings, he left a couple of sinkers up that were destroyed by Blue Jays hitters, first with a game-tying two-run blast by Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth, then with a go-ahead solo smash by J.P. Arencibia to open the seventh.

On the night, Cook was charged with five runs (three earned) in six-plus innings. But for the first time this year, he allowed multiple homers in a game, making one mistake too many with a pitch that permits little margin for error. The result was the Red Sox’ second straight loss, this one a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

The loss dropped the Red Sox 2 1/2 games behind both the White Sox and Orioles for the second wild card.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The Red Sox’ offense remained largely dormant. For the third straight game, the team scored all of its runs in one inning, and required a home run to manufacture its offense. This time, a Jarrod Saltalamacchia three-run homer in the second inning against Carlos Villanueva produced the Sox’ only runs of the night. The Sox have failed to score in 24 of their last 27 innings.

Matt Albers faced three batters and retired none, giving up a hard single (which permitted two inherited runners to cross the plate) and a pair of walks.

Will Middlebrooks had a tough night, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout while committing his second error in as many nights. This one, in the top of the seventh inning, led to a pair of unearned runs that transformed Toronto’s one-run lead into a considerable advantage.

Daniel Nava, back in the leadoff spot against a right-handed starter, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. He is now 1-for-21 (albeit with six walks) in his last nine games.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, after sitting out three straight games against left-handed starters, returned to the lineup and promptly snapped an 0-for-14 stretch by blasting a three-run homer into the Blue Jays bullpen in the bottom of the second. Of his last nine hits, five have been homers. He now has 18 homers this year, a career high and the most by any big league catcher.

Cody Ross went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. In his last seven games, he’s hitting .400/.407/.880/1.287.

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