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Cook ends monthlong winning drought

Cook ends monthlong winning drought

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DENVER -- Pitching is an individual pursuit, but Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook made it a team activity Saturday night.

With diving by center fielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki helping along the way, Cook held the Dodgers to three runs, one earned, and six hits in 6 1/3 innings while pitching the Rockies to an 11-3 victory at Coors Field.

Despite striking out just one batter, Cook (2-3) didn't give up a run until the seventh en route to his first victory since April 24, six starts ago. Cook threw his sinker almost exclusively but his ground balls to fly balls (nine and five) were not as lopsided as they usually are when he goes so deep with so few runs.

"I got a couple pitches up tonight, but I knew that even when I wasn't throwing the ball down in the zone, with a wind blowing like it was tonight, I don't need to be quite as fine and keep trying to pound the ball down, down, down, down, down," said Cook, who threw strikes on 60 of his 92 pitches. "Just throw it in the strike zone and let them hit it."

Cook had some rough patches. He opened the first by giving up a hit and a walk, but escaped by forcing Matt Kemp into an inning-ending double-play grounder.

"I trust my guys to pick me up ... they're ready to make a play as soon as I make my pitch," Cook said.

Cook yielded a one-out Casey Blake double in the second, and opened the third by walking opposing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and giving up a Rafael Furcal single. But Cook ended the second with ease and diffused the third-inning threat by picking Kuroda off second.

But the Dodgers didn't score on him until their three-run seventh that started with Kemp's leadoff triple and was helped by Tulowitzki's fielding error.

"He got ground balls ... I've seen him better than that," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He's walked some people this year. The one inning, maybe he was getting tired. We couldn't do enough damage."

Gonzalez, who homered and walked with the bases loaded, made the defensive highlight package at the end of the third by racing into short right-center and diving to snare a Manny Ramirez looping fly ball just before it landed. Manager Jim Tracy said the catch was "off the charts."

Tulowitzki dived to his right and backhanded James Loney's fourth-inning liner.

Gonzalez said Cook's pitching to contact helps keep defenders alert, which means they're always in position to make a dazzling play.

"That's really fun for us because we're always heads up when we're playing defense," Gonzalez said. "We all know he's going to throw the ball around the plate."

He seems to always be around the plate at home, where he has a 2.63 ERA in four starts.

Ubaldo Jimenez (8-1, 0.88 ERA) has been baseball's best pitcher thus far and Jeff Francis' return from missing last year because of shoulder surgery is a story being followed closely. But Cook, 31, is the only starter on the staff to have appeared in an All-Star Game and he's still considered a team leader.

Although it had been a long time between wins, Cook has improved quietly. Three of his past four outings have been quality starts.

In his one non-quality start, which was his last one at Kansas City last Sunday, Cook went four scoreless innings, then unraveled and gave up four while managing one out in the fifth. The bad inning cost him a chance to win after the Rockies had given him a 9-0 lead; the team won, 11-7.

Take away that third of an inning, and Cook has a 1.96 ERA in his past 23 innings. Cook hopes he has begun a run of control and effectiveness.

"I always feel strong, like I can throw the ball harder," Cook said. "But it's just about commanding my pitch, hitting the glove and letting the ball move. That's what I was able to do tonight."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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