Padres get goose-egged by Rox's Cook
Offense stifled; starter Banks stung by four-run fifth inning
DENVER -- There are pitchers who nitpick, nibble and do just about everything in their power to avoid throwing a ball over the middle of the plate, no matter the circumstance and no matter how much they trust their stuff or command.
Colorado's Aaron Cook will never be confused with such a pitcher. He plies his trade on just the opposite approach, his ability to command his fastball in the strike zone with a knack for getting opposing hitters to jump on pitches early.
"He was," Padres catcher Michael Barrett would say Tuesday, "relentless in the strike zone."
Cook continued his mastery of the Padres on Tuesday, needing just 79 pitches to toss a complete-game shutout in the shortest nine-inning game (one hour, 58 minutes) in the history of Coors Field, as the Rockies defeated the Padres 4-0.
In a start that was eerily reminiscent of a game on July 25 of last season, Cook (11-5) allowed a leadoff hit to Jody Gerut and then proceeded to allow just four more hits over the rest of the game.
"I knew this team was going to be aggressive. I've faced them a lot," Cook said. "They know that I like to pitch ahead, so they like to get a good first pitch to swing at. Honestly, I was able to get my four-seamer over tonight more effectively than I was my sinker, because I knew the lefties would be looking out over the plate."
The Padres, who have now been shutout six times this season, never had more than one runner on base in any given inning.
In that game last season against the Padres, Cook allowed two runs, but needed just 74 pitches -- he got 15 ground-ball outs along the way -- in recording a victory over these same Padres.
Cook got 15 ground-ball outs on Tuesday, didn't walk a batter and had four strikeouts.
"He's got a lot of movement, comes right after you and he throws strikes," said Barrett, who had one of the five hits for the Padres. "It's hard to work the count against him. ... He manages his pitches well."
This a night after the Padres (33-52) rolled up a season-high 15 runs on 22 hits during a 15-8 victory, in a game where every starter had at least one hit. But offense was in short supply on Tuesday, and it hardly surprised anyone.
"Historically, he's been good against the Padres," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "Very efficient, pounded his fastball with strikes, had a good sinker and cut the ball."
Cook, who is now 10-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 16 career starts against the Padres, yielded the leadoff hit to Gerut to start the game before setting down 12 of the next 13 batters that he faced. He benefited greatly from two double plays turned behind him.
Cook's counterpart, Padres right-hander Josh Banks (2-3), wasn't too bad himself on Tuesday, as he allowed no runs through four innings. But Banks, a waiver-wire claim from Toronto who has helped hold an injury-riddled rotation together, ran into trouble during the fifth inning.
Banks allowed a leadoff double to Troy Tulowitzki, who then moved to third base on Cook's sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter Willy Taveras then poked an opposite-field RBI single to right on a pitch Banks thought he executed for a 1-0 lead.
"I looked at some of the videos ... some of the balls they hit were good pitches. There's nothing you can do about that," Banks said.
Banks then walked Todd Helton and Matt Holliday to load the bases. He looked like he might get out of the inning when he got Brad Hawpe to bounce a ball toward Adrian Gonzalez at first base.
Gonzalez, on the run, threw to shortstop Khalil Greene, who was covering second base on the play. Greene got the force, but Holliday's wide slide at second base proved enough to disrupt Greene, who threw past Banks, who was covering first base.
"It was close," Black said of Holliday's slide. "But he's a big guy. But his left arm was there."
A run scored on the play and another followed when the ball got past Banks. Finally, Garrett Atkins singled in another run for a 4-0 lead, giving Cook plenty to work with the remainder of the game.
"I got the ground ball I wanted but we weren't able to turn two," Banks said. "The way that he [Cook] was going, one or two runs was tough to come by."