By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) _ Aaron Cook threw a two-hitter in the finest performance of his career, Will Middlebrooks, Cody Ross and Daniel Nava all hit solo homers in the fifth inning, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 5-0 on Friday night.
Making his third start of the season, Cook (2-1) struck out two, walked none and needed just 81 pitches for his third career shutout and 12th complete game.
Cook’s only hit allowed through seven innings came on a slow tapper from Ichiro Suzuki in the fourth inning. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia charged and made a strong throw to try and get Suzuki, but first-base umpire Lance Barksdale ruled Suzuki safe on the bang-bang play.
John Jaso put any uncertainty around Suzuki’s single to rest with a base hit to right field to lead off the eighth.
Cook’s last complete game victory came on April 24, 2010, against the Marlins.
In his previous two starts with the Red Sox this season, Cook failed to make it past five innings. His first start in May was
done after 2 2-3 innings and six earned runs allowed to Baltimore.
He then went on the disabled list with a knee laceration and made his return to the rotation with a victory last Sunday against Atlanta, throwing five innings and giving up two earned runs. Far from overpowering, Cook didn’t record his first strikeout of the season until getting Chone Figgins looking in the third inning.
He was extremely economical with his pitches entering the eighth inning having thrown just 63 total and only 17 balls. Only four of the first 21 outs Cook got were recorded by the outfield.
Jaso’s single leading off the eighth was sharply hit and it gave Seattle its third runner of the game. Dustin Ackley reached on an error leading off the sixth, but all three times the Mariners got a baserunner, they never reached second. Pedroia made sure of that closing out the eighth by making a diving grab of Ackley’s hard grounder, flipping to shortstop Mike Aviles with his glove for the first out and Aviles finishing the double play with a strong throw.
The Mariners were shut out for the 10th time this season in 79 games.
Seattle starter Hector Noesi (2-10) became the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 losses by dropping his seventh straight. Noesi was 2-3 after beating Minnesota on May 6 and is winless in his last 10 starts with three no-decisions.
He was hammered during a stretch of nine batters in the fifth and sixth innings.
Middlebrooks was up first in the Red Sox homer parade after nearly hitting one out to deep center field in his first at-bat in the second inning. Noesi continued his season-long struggles of putting away batters with two strikes by leaving a pitch down the middle that Middlebrooks lined to the back of the Red Sox bullpen in left field.
Before Noesi had much of a chance to recover, he was watching Ross hit a 432-foot shot into the second deck in left for his 12th homer of the season. It was the fourth time this year the Red Sox went back-to-back.
Noesi got the next two outs and had two strikes on Nava when he hit Boston’s third solo shot of the inning.
In the sixth, David Ortiz led off with a double into the gap and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit his 15th homer, going the opposite way with a shot to left-center. Adrian Gonzalez followed with another single and Noesi’s night was done after giving up seven hits and failing to record a strikeout for the second time in 16 starts.
Notes: Cook’s other two shutouts came in 2009 vs. Atlanta and 2008 vs. San Diego. … Seattle placed CF Franklin Gutierrez on the seven-day concussion DL on Friday. Gutierrez was hit in the side of the face with an errant pick-off attempt in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Boston and spent the night in a hospital for observation. … Seattle is 0-3 this season when the Safeco Field roof has been closed during the game
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)