BOSTON — If the Red Sox had played more games as well as they did on Monday night, management might not have needed to voice its support for manager Bobby Valentine.
Seven strong innings by sinkerballer Aaron Cook. Eight doubles. Two double plays and a pickoff.
Solid pitching, hitting and defense gave Boston a 9-2 win over the powerful Texas Rangers a few hours after owner John Henry said it is “simply wrong” to blame Valentine for the troubles of a team that has never been above third place in the AL East and GM Ben Cherington said the team is not looking to replace the manager.
“I regret that they had to do it,” Valentine said of the statements. “If our record was better they wouldn’t have had to do it. (I) totally appreciate it, though, if they thought it was necessary.”
The Red Sox have hovered around .500 for much of the season and improved to 55-55 with their latest win.
But several players said the votes of confidence in Valentine don’t affect their performances.
“Our job is to go out and play,” said Adrian Gonzalez, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. “He hasn’t swung the bat all year. He hasn’t pitched. It’s us that are playing out there so the .500 record we’re at right now, it’s on us. It’s not on Bobby. Everybody wants to make a big deal out of that, but it’s never been on Bobby. It’s always been on us.”
The Red Sox matched a season high with eight doubles and lead the majors with 248. The New York Mets have the second most, 213.
Dustin Pedroia had three doubles, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford two each and Gonzalez one. Those first four batters in the lineup were a combined 11 for 18 with six runs and eight RBIs. Ellsbury and Crawford returned recently from long-term injuries.
“They’re electric and tonight they played a terrific game, using the whole field, hitting all pitches, running the bases,” Valentine said of the two speedsters at the top of the order. “It’s a delight to see.”
Cook (3-5) regained control of his sinker after going 0-4 in his previous five starts. Of his 21 outs, 15 came on groundballs. He allowed six hits, walked two and struck out one.
“Any time I have my sinker working and guys are playing great defense behind me, that’s a recipe for success,” Cook said.
Yu Darvish (11-8) also has struggled and fell to 1-4 in his last six starts. On Monday, in the rookie’s first start against the Red Sox, he threw 123 pitches and allowed 11 hits, both career highs.
He gave up at least six runs for the fourth time in five games, a stretch in which his ERA is 7.76. That’s a sharp drop from the 3.59 ERA he had at the All-Star break when he was a member of the AL team.
“When things don’t go their way for a period of time, I think it’s natural that you feel frustrated,” he said through a translator. “I’m sure a lot of players go through this during the year.”
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a double by Nelson Cruz and an RBI single by David Murphy. But they managed just two hits in Cook’s remaining five innings while the Red Sox were taking a 5-1 lead. Texas was hitless in four straight innings before Adrian Beltre started the ninth with his 19th homer of the year.
Boston went ahead 2-1 in the third on doubles by Ellsbury, Crawford and Gonzalez.
Two more doubles in the fourth contributed to a three-run inning and a 5-1 lead. A one-out walk to Ryan Kalish and a single by Mike Aviles put runners at first and third. Ellsbury then doubled in one run, Crawford hit a sacrifice fly and Pedroia capped the rally with a run-scoring double.
The Red Sox scored their sixth run in the seventh when Pedroia led off with his third double and scored on Gonzalez’s single.
And they added three in the eighth with the runs coming in on a double by Crawford, a single by Gonzalez and a sacrifice fly by Cody Ross.
“They popped the ball around the ballpark pretty good,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Yu threw a lot of strikes and when he put them in the strike zone, they didn’t miss them.”
NOTES: Michael Young started at shortstop for Texas in place of Elvis Andrus, who left Sunday’s 7-6 loss to Kansas City in the ninth inning with a sore right shoulder. Washington said he expects Andrus to play Tuesday night. … The first five batters in Boston’s lineup went 12 for 22 with eight doubles, six runs and nine RBIs. … Ryan Dempster (5-5) makes his second start for Texas on Tuesday since being acquired the previous Tuesday from the Chicago Cubs. Jon Lester (5-9) goes for Boston. … Gonzalez reached base at least twice for the eighth time in 10 games. … Of his last 13 hitters, Cook retired 11 and walked two.