High-powered Red Sox offense carries Cook

High-powered Red Sox offense carries Cook

High-powered Red Sox offense carries Cook
BOSTON -- Before Monday night's game against the Rangers, Red Sox owner John Henry and general manager Ben Cherington endorsed their manager, saying that Bobby Valentine is still their man.

What happened during Boston's 9-2 victory over Texas was more powerful.

If the top four hitters in Valentine's lineup keep putting on the type of clinic that was on display Monday, the Red Sox will no longer be reeling and their manager won't have to worry about being the subject of newspaper columns which suggest he should be dismissed.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez resembled a four-man wrecking crew, and Yu Darvish -- who clearly didn't have his best stuff -- didn't stand much of a chance.

That quartet combined on an 11-for-18 performance that included six runs, eight doubles and eight RBIs.

"That was fun tonight," said Ellsbury, who scored three times and had three hits. "Guys did a tremendous job of getting on base, getting in good hitter's counts to drive the ball in. That's fun for us."

This 2012 season hasn't been a lot of fun for the Red Sox to date, as evidenced by their 55-55 record. But there is still time for that hot streak Valentine and his players have been anticipating for months.

Boston is nine games back in the American League East, and four games back for the second spot in the Wild Card standings.

"Well, definitely the calendar is ticking away, so we've got to start playing good baseball and stay on a roll," said Red Sox righty Aaron Cook, who got the win. "I think the bats really came alive tonight. If we can continue to go out there and just play the type of baseball that we're capable of playing -- play fun, play relaxed -- I think good things can happen."

Even more good things will happen if the Red Sox can get their starting pitchers on a consistent roll.

His spot in the rotation possibly in jeopardy, Cook did his best to defend his turf with a strong showing in the opener of a three-game series against the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers.

Belted around in his three previous starts, Cook had his sinker going in this one, limiting a strong Texas lineup to six hits and one run over seven innings. Cook walked three and struck out two, improving his record to 3-5 while lowering his ERA to 4.70.

"You saw what Aaron did," said Valentine. "He gave us seven innings and less hits than innings pitched and got a couple of strikeouts. He had those balls directed properly, and the defense played great behind him. He also executed a perfect pickoff play. That was big in the game."

Lefty Franklin Morales re-entered the rotation on Sunday with a fine performance in place of the injured Josh Beckett, leading to speculation that Cook could become the odd man out.

But no decisions have been made yet, and Cook gave Valentine even more to think about with his performance Monday.

"It didn't really pop into my mind," said Cook. "I felt like the last couple games that I had that I lost, I was making really good pitches except for like five or six mistakes with guys on, and I was able to put that out of my mind and really focus down the zone. I think that's one reason that I've been able to be successful is I'm able to have short-term [memory], forget about it and get back to what I know how to do -- bottom of the zone, change speeds occasionally and just let my defense play."

For the second day in a row, the Red Sox combined a strong starting-pitching performance with a steady offense.

Darvish, making his first career start at Fenway Park, was tagged for 11 hits -- including seven doubles -- and six runs over 6 2/3 innings. He walked four and struck out nine.

"I never saw him look like that," said Valentine, who managed against Darvish in Japan. "He wasn't very good, actually. His stuff was flat, I thought. He's working on stuff, I guess. I don't know."

This wasn't the occasion for Darvish to have an off night. Not when the Boston bats were, well, relentless.

"Guys getting on, stealing bases, scoring from first base, balls off the wall, just putting pressure on the defense, that's fun for us to go out there and be able to do that in the game," said Ellsbury.

Ellsbury and Crawford have missed much of the season with injuries. Pedroia was hampered for a long time with right thumb injuries. Gonzalez spent the early portion of the season mired in a slump. Perhaps now the stars have aligned.

"I mean, if they're healthy and they get in a rhythm they can both be in, that's when this team is going to be able to score a lot of runs," Gonzalez said of the Ellsbury-Crawford 1-2 punch. "They set the table. They set the tone. After that, it's up to the middle of the order to drive them in. If they can be on base, we can score some runs."

The Rangers jumped out first, getting a leadoff double from Nelson Cruz in the top of the second that was followed by an RBI single by David Murphy. But Cook reversed the momentum in the inning when he induced Mike Napoli to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

Back came the Red Sox in the third. Ellsbury led off with a double. Crawford stepped up next and doubled Ellsbury in with a shot into the corner in right. With one out, Gonzalez ripped a double to right, bringing home Crawford to give the Red Sox the lead.

Once the Red Sox grabbed the momentum, they never let it go. The hits kept coming in the fourth. Ellsbury lined an RBI double to left, Crawford lofted a sacrifice fly and Pedroia smashed a double off the Green Monster to bring home Ellsbury, giving the Red Sox a 5-1 lead.

After Pedroia drilled a double to center to open the seventh, Gonzalez delivered another insurance run with an RBI single.

"They were certainly swinging it tonight," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We've seen them do it before. They've done it to many people and did it to us tonight. We just got beat. They hit everything."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.