Aaron Cook had set down 11 Toronto Blue Jays in a row when the wheels came off.
After throwing a first-pitch strike to center fielder Colby Rasmus, Cook threw four consecutive balls to put Rasmus on first — about as uncharacteristic a display from the veteran right-hander as you're ever likely to see. Then one bad pitch to a very hot Edwin Encarnacion, and just like that, the game was tied at three apiece.
After getting Adam Lind on a patented ground out to first base to close out the frame, Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia lead off the top of the seventh. And sure enough, one more flat sinker from Cook, and another pitch a Toronto hitter did not miss, as Arencibia gave the Jays a lead they would not reliquish.
That was two bad pitches for Cook for an entire outing, but it was two bad pitches — and a rare-as-the-dodo-walk — that the Blue Jays made him pay for.
"I think the walk might have — he might have lost a little concentration," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the Sox' 7-3 loss on Saturday. "I don't know, they only hit two balls hard against him — they both went over the fence. It was a pretty good outing."
It may have been a good outing in the "moral victory" kind of sense, but the reality is that, after losing the first two of a three-game set to the team trailing them by a now-half game in the standings, the loss drops the Red Sox back to just a game above the .500 mark. It also gives the Blue Jays to get out of town with a series sweep and a lead on the Red Sox for the final playoff slots in the American League.
To be blunt, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester — the two pitchers that Boston was counting on to lead its rotation — just aren't winning games. And in the absence of those two winning games, moral victories from the rest of the rotation become hollow in the absence of actual victories.
Cook did pitch a heck of a game — for the most part. However, he yielded two mistakes on a night that demanded he be perfect. Two bad pitches — and a largely stagnant offense save for Jarrod Saltalamacchia — and an otherwise good outing was wasted.
It's a completely unfair standard, but it's the only standard the Red Sox can afford to have at this point in the season.