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BOS@SEA: Cook hurls a two-hit shutout vs. Mariners

The Red Sox need another dominating performance from Aaron Cook on Wednesday to avoid a sweep by the Athletics.

If Cook is anywhere near as effective as he was in a two-hit shutout in Seattle on Friday, the Sox could have a good ending to an otherwise lackluster road trip. Boston is 2-4 on its current West Coast swing and will return home following Wednesday's contest.

Oakland enjoyed a walk-off 3-2 win on Tuesday, the club's third straight victory. The A's took the series opener, 6-1, on Monday behind five runs in the first two innings.

Since returning from the disabled list on June 24, Cook is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts. Not bad for a pitcher who started the season in Triple-A.

Cook needed just 81 pitches to shut out the Mariners, the fewest pitches thrown by a Boston pitcher in a nine-inning shutout since Roger Clemens in 1986.

"I've just been able to use my sinker successfully and that's a really huge key for me, being able to throw it down in the zone, get the guys swinging at the pitches I want them to swing at and having a great defense behind me," Cook said.

Oakland starter A.J. Griffin will also make his third start since being recalled from the Minors on the same day Cook returned to action.

Griffin has been equally impressive in two outings, holding opponents scoreless over his last 11 innings. The rookie faced tough competition with starts vs. the Giants and Rangers.

Manager Bob Melvin like what he's seen thus far from the right-hander, though Griffin hasn't faced a setback yet. That could come against a dangerous Red Sox lineup.

"He hasn't gone through the failure part here, certainly you don't expect him to go out and do what he's done every time, but it's how he responds to a tough outing," Melvin said. "You start finding out more about yourself. Certainly internally, you find out more about yourself when you're struggling than when you're going good. But my guess is he's going to be able to handle it."

Red Sox: Middlebrooks bothered by hamstring
• Will Middlebrooks was out of the lineup for a second consecutive night on Tuesday, the result of left hamstring tightness. He last played on Sunday in Seattle.

The Red Sox have yet to decide if they will place the third baseman on the disabled list. He also had a hamstring issue a little more than six weeks ago, but he recovered quickly.

"We have the DL sitting there," manager Bobby Valentine said. "We could backdate it any time we want if we feel like there's not enough progress being made for him to play during that DL time. He was able to touch his toes yesterday without any spasm or grabbing. That's one of those hamstring tell-tale signs."

Nick Punto has started at third the last two games. Middlebrooks left in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday night vs. the Mariners. The Sox are holding out hope he can play before the All-Star break. The rookie is hitting .298 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 48 games.

"He's coming along," Valentine said. "He's a little better today than he was yesterday. That's progress."

• Adrian Gonzalez extended his season-high 14-game hit streak with a single in the fourth inning on Tuesday night. It's the longest active streak in the Majors.

The first baseman is hitting .356 (21-for-59) with seven RBIs and seven runs scored during the streak.

Athletics: Melvin excited for second half
• Oakland is 40-42 through 82 games this season, and Melvin sees some promise in the club's first half.

The A's are surging with a 14-7 record in their last 21 games. They are 21-19 at home.

"I think we've proved that we're a pretty gritty team, that we can get through tough times. You look at the offensive numbers, still at the bottom, but it seems like we're more offensive, it seems like we're in a lot of games, because we are, and we're starting to play better against the better teams," Melvin said. "All that said, I think, with a younger group, is a credit to the determination of the younger guys here. I think it's exciting going forward."

• Jonny Gomes is 7-for-14 in his career vs. Cook, with three home runs and six RBIs.

The designated hitter went 1-for-4 on Tuesday, his first action since Saturday. Gomes is hitting .239 with eight homers and 21 RBIs.

Worth noting
• At 42-39, the Red Sox have a winning record through 81 games for the 15th consecutive season.

• A's outfielder Coco Crisp homered to lead off the first inning on Tuesday, Oakland's 14th straight game with a homer. That matches the club's longest streak since 2004.

• Boston slugger David Ortiz is one home run shy of 400 for his career. His last homer was on Sunday vs. the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Comments