Washington Nationals’ Felipe Lopez, right, steals second base as he beats the throw from Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta to second baseman Kazuo Matsui, left, during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 20, 2007, in Washington.
(Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Aaron Cook is about as far as you can get from a strikeout pitcher.
Try telling that to the Washington Nationals.
Cook, who entered the game with the lowest strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in the major leagues (2.82), fanned a career-high eight in seven shutout innings, and the Colorado Rockies beat Washington 3-1 on Friday night.
Cook (6-6) allowed four hits as the Rockies won for the 10th time in 14 games.
“He’s not a strikeout pitcher, but some of his struggles have been with two strikes,” Colorado manger Clint Hurdle said. “Now, he’s putting people away.”
Jorge Julio gave up a run in the eighth, but Manny Corpas pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
The Nationals committed three errors, and a baserunning blunder stifled a late rally.
Cook had lost five of his previous nine starts since May 26. He won once in that span and posted a 5.22 ERA.
He struck out Ryan Zimmerman twice, freezing him with a fastball in the fourth and enticing a weak swing over a breaking ball with a runner on second in the sixth. He struck out at least one batter in every inning except the first and surpassed his previous career high of seven against Boston on June 17, 2004.
“I was able to mix in my pitches — both sides of the plate — use my four-seamer in and out, my sinker in and out,” Cook said. “I had a pretty good breaking ball tonight. Usually, I keep attacking guys with my sinker over and over again. Tonight, I felt good enough to keep throwing my slider.”
Zimmerman said Cook’s sinker was extremely difficult to hit and compared Cook to all-stars Brandon Webb and Brad Penny. Cook regularly threw it faster than 90 mph, and its movement baffled the Nationals.
“It’s a tough pitch,” Zimmerman said. “Everything starts in the zone, and then it’s gone. You kind of have to just pick a side of the plate and almost guess because it’s so tough.”
Cook got some defensive help in the fifth inning from Ryan Spilborghs. Brian Schneider led off with a drive headed for Washington’s bullpen beyond the fence in right field, but Spilborghs made a leaping catch to rob him of a possible homer.
“Goaltending,” Spilborghs said. “It was right on the rim, so I brought it back.”
Billy Traber (2-1) started for Washington on short notice and took the loss after allowing two runs, one earned, and a walk in four innings. He filled in for right-hander Jason Simontacchi, who was scratched on Thursday due to right elbow tendinitis.
Cook drew a leadoff walk in the third, and Willy Taveras followed with a bunt single. Kaz Matsui then dropped a sacrifice bunt, but all three runners were safe when Traber’s throw pulled second baseman Ronnie Belliard off first base.
Matt Holliday drove in Cook with a groundout, and Todd Helton hit a sacrifice fly that made it 2-0.
“I kind of made my own mess,” Traber said.
Helton hit another sacrifice fly in the seventh to made it 3-0.
Felipe Lopez and Ronnie Belliard led off the Washington eighth with singles. Zimmerman hit a broken-bat single that drove in Lopez.
After a groundout, Austin Kearns blooped a ball to shallow right. Second baseman Matsui made the catch and threw to second to double up Zimmerman, who ran on contact because he thought there were two outs.
“You can’t do anything about it now,” Zimmerman said, “but you can’t let this happen.”