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Aaron Cook shuts down the White Sox

Aaron Cook used his sinker to baffle batters, forcing the White Sox into 15 outs via ground balls in seven innings.

Jim Davis/globe staff

Aaron Cook used his sinker to baffle batters, forcing the White Sox into 15 outs via ground balls in seven innings.

It’s become Aaron Cook’s go-to line to explain his speedy starts.

“I’ve kind of joked around that I’ve had a two-hour attention span,” he said. “So I like to get it over with quick.”

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He went seven innings, allowing just five hits and an unearned run.

No walks. No strikeouts. No decision. No problems.

His pedal-to-the-metal pitching bottled up the Chicago White Sox Monday night and helped push the Red Sox to a 5-1 win.

All in a crisp 2 hours 40 minutes.

You could have set his start to an egg timer.

“The pace was pretty close to where I wanted it be,” he said.

He did acknowledge he was running a little slow, throwing 97 pitches to 26 batters.

“It was really hot and humid out there, and I was working a little slower,” he said. “I really like to just get the ball and get on the mound. Just get up there, pound the strike zone, and try to get the hitters uncomfortable.”

He didn’t dance around the strike zone, going at the White Sox lineup with his sinker and making them keep the ball in play.

He threw 66 strikes, and 15 of his 21 outs were ground balls, the recipe for the success he’s used since returning from the disabled list June 24. In four starts, he’s 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA.

“That’s what he does,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “When you have that sinker, you pitch to contact. He’s not going to walk anyone. Very few guys are going to get on with a free pass. He’s going to pound that zone with the pitch that moves down to try to get them to hit the top of the ball.

“You saw in the seventh inning they hit the bottom of the ball a couple of times, and that’s a sign. But he had a really good sinker tonight. And his other pitches were pretty good too, except the one he threw to [A.J.] Pierzynski there, his curveball didn’t work well.”

The only run he allowed was a strange one. In the first inning with Adam Dunn at the plate and Kevin Youkilis at first, the shift was on to the right side of the infield. Dunn grounded out to second, with Youkilis safe at second. But with third baseman Will Middlebrooks nowhere near third, Youkilis decided to break for it.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez made what essentially amounted to a poorly thrown football pass to a scrambling Middlebrooks, the ball sailing into left field.

“If I was a better quarterback, [Cook] wouldn’t have given up a run,” Gonzalez said. “He did an unbelievable job.”

Gonzalez was busy at first, accounting for 14 putouts.

“When I’m busy, that’s a good thing for us,” he said. “When Cook is pitching he pounds the strike zone, keeps the ball down and makes the hitters swing.”

Youkilis, who had three of Chicago’s hits, said before the game that he and Cook had known each other since they were kids and he was excited to face him. The two grew up in the Cincinnati area, played on the same traveling team for three years as teenagers, and played against each other throughout high school.

Afterward, Cook explained why Youkilis was probably so excited.

“Today is pretty typical of what he’s done off me the whole way through,” Cook said with a grin. “I was just happy to keep him inside the ballpark. In high school he hit a couple of homers off me.”

As for how he contained the rest of the lineup, Cook said he saw enough of the White Sox in spring training with the Rockies and knew they would jump at most of what he offered.

“I was able to get in a good rhythm and pound the bottom of the strike zone with my sinker. I knew they were going to be an aggressive team.”

It was Cook’s second start this season with no walks or strikeouts (the last Red Sox pitcher to go five or more innings in multiple starts and not record a strikeout or a walk was Bob Stanley in 1979).

He’s got a running joke with Josh Beckett, who’s currently on a streak of 294 games with at least one strikeout.

“I want to work on going the other direction,” Cook said. “Seeing if I can get 200 without one.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.
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