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.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.