BOSTON -- They battled back fiercely, the Red Sox did. But starting pitcher Aaron Cook simply put his team in too much of a hole in a 7-5 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday night.
The sinkerballer got roughed up for five runs in the top of the fifth, and Boston's late-inning comeback fell just short.
That is how a four-game winning streak came to an end for the Red Sox, who took two out of three from Detroit.
"The guys did a good job," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "I was real proud of the way the guys battled that game. That's another series win. We won a couple of series against tough teams -- the Yankees and Detroit. We keep winning series, we're going to be just fine."
However, there is concern about Cook, who gave up nine hits and six runs over 4 2/3 innings. More troubling than one isolated off night is the way Cook has performed over his last three starts: 15 innings, 21 hits, 17 runs, six home runs and one strikeout.
"I've been missing location with my pitches," Cook said. "Unfortunately, I think I'm on one of the streaks I've never had in my career where I've given up multiple home runs in three games in a row now. In those situations, I might need to bear down a little bit harder and make sure that I'm definitely down in the zone, because if I'm still down in the zone, they're hitting balls on the ground and I think the outcome of the game is totally different."
With Josh Beckett's status iffy for his next start because of a bad back, Valentine wasn't ready to say if Cook will stay in the rotation.
"You know, we all wish he had a pitch with two strikes that would be a swing-and-miss pitch," Valentine said. "You know, some of those guys, he had the two strikes and they just kept fouling them off so, yeah, that's what you live with -- a contact pitcher, he works quick, doesn't walk people. A lot of times those ground balls find holes."
Down 6-1, the Red Sox made this a game with a stirring sixth-inning rally. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit into a 4-6-3 double play, the only consolation being that a run scored. But it wasn't a rally killer. Will Middlebrooks hammered an RBI single to make it a three-run game. After a walk, Pedro Ciriaco then lined an RBI single to right, and it was a 6-4 game.
Carl Crawford launched a solo homer to right-center against lefty Phil Coke in the seventh, and the Tigers' once commanding lead was down to a precious run.
"That's big," said Saltalamacchia. "That's the way it's supposed to be -- down by five runs, make it a ballgame. We still won the series, that's the positive note. We've got to look at that and we've got to get ready for Minnesota."
The Tigers got a big insurance swing from Delmon Young in the eighth, a solo shot that hooked just fair around the Pesky Pole in right.
Over the final three innings, Detroit's relief crew flat out stifled the Red Sox, retiring nine in a row.
"Yeah, they're pretty good," Valentine said. "They're a good team because they have a good bullpen. We couldn't spark it there."
Cook was solid early, allowing just two hits over the first three innings. The Tigers did strike for a run against him in the fourth, when Brennan Boesch came through with an RBI single to tie the game. Jacoby Ellsbury prevented any more damage in that inning when he made one of the best catches of the season for the Red Sox, banging into the bullpen fence on a dive, but still hanging on.
Instead of settling down in the fifth, Cook got into more trouble. With one out, Austin Jackson slapped an RBI single to left to give the Tigers their first lead. But the big swing came off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, who hit a mammoth two-run homer that soared into the parking lot behind the Green Monster.
"He thought he could bounce a curveball and he didn't bounce it. The big boy deposited it," said Valentine.
"The biggest problem was hanging a breaking ball to one of the best hitters in the game," said Cook. "He had the long at-bat, I tried to do something different, hung a curveball and that's what he's supposed to do with that type of pitch. Other than that, I can live with the ground balls getting through and scoring runs here and there. When I'm making bad pitches to the best hitters in the game and just leaving them up, you know, they did exactly what they were supposed to do with those pitches."
Though lefty Craig Breslow, fresh off being traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday, was warming up in the bullpen, manager Bobby Valentine stuck with Cook to face Prince Fielder.
That didn't work out so well as Fielder ripped a solo homer to center -- again on a curveball -- pinning Boston in a 6-1 hole.
"I didn't expect a guy to swing on a first-pitch curveball after a home run, so he just did a good job of hitting it," Saltalamacchia said.
Breslow did come in after the Fielder homer and struck out two over 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
"Great," Valentine said. "You know, that's a good addition. Breslow, first time in, had no ill effects from the cross-country flight [from Los Angeles]. Threw strikes, quality. I like what I saw."