No strikeouts, no problem for Aaron Cook

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Despite going without a strikeout for the fourth time in five starts as a member of the Red Sox, Aaron Cook limited the White Sox to just an unearned run over seven innings in Boston’s 5-1 victory Monday.

The sinkerballing Cook has recorded a mere two strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings this season, both of which came in his two-hit shutout of the Mariners on June 29. He’s the only pitcher this year to go back-to-back starts without a strikeout, and he’s now done it twice. Despite that, he’s 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA. He has a 1.67 ERA in his four starts since coming off the DL last month.

Cook has certainly never been a strikeout pitcher, but he’s in some rare air indeed right now, averaging 0.61 strikeouts per nine innings. Min. 80 innings, here are the tiniest strikeout rates since 2000:

2.10 – Kirk Rueter (2005 Giants) – 25 K in 107.1 IP
2.13 – Nate Cornejo (2003 Tigers) – 46 K in 194.2 IP
2.51 – Kirk Rueter (2003 Giants) – 41 K in 147 IP
2.59 – Aaron Cook (2005 Rockies) – 24  K in 83.1 IP
2.65 – Kirk Rueter (2004 Giants) – 56 K in 190.1 IP
2.98 – Jimmy Gobble (2004 Royals) – 49 K in 148 IP
2.99 – Kirk Saarloos (2005 Athletics) – 53 K in 159.2 IP
3.01 – Jimmy Anderson (2002 Pirates) – 47 K in 140.2 IP
3.12 – Aaron Cook (2003 Rockies) – 43 K in 124 IP
3.14 – Chien-Ming Wang (2006 Yankees) – 76 K in 218 IP

Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez was in ninth place at 3.02 before striking out six in six innings tonight and  knocking himself out of the top 10.  Cook could join Rueter with three spots here if this keeps up.

The Giants might be ready to part ways with Hunter Pence

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Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area hints that the Giants may be done with outfielder Hunter Pence. It’s not clear just how seriously the club is contemplating such a decision, but there are six days remaining on Pence’s rehab assignment, at which point they’ll be able to recall him, reassign him to the minors or release him.

The 35-year-old outfielder has struggled to make a full recovery after spraining his right thumb during the first week of the season. Pence bounced back for a 17-game run with the Giants in April, during which he slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 with one double and one stolen base in 61 plate appearances, but was eventually placed on the disabled list with recurring soreness in his finger. He currently sports a promising .318/.359/.388 batting line with four extra-base hits (including a grand slam) over 92 PA in Triple-A Sacramento.

Despite his recent resurgence in Triple-A, the Giants may not need the additional outfield depth just yet. Mac Williamson, who was recalled in the wake of Pence’s DL assignment, has already cemented the starting role in left field and is off to a strong start at the plate as well. Of course, if the Giants decide to say a premature goodbye to their veteran outfielder (who, it should be said, helped them to two World Series championships over the last seven seasons), it’ll cost them the remaining balance on his $18.5 million salary for 2018.