SAN FRANCISCO — Before yet another discouraging defeat in a season defined by them, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy got asked about playing the role of spoiler down the stretch this season.
It’s hardly where the reigning World Series champions expected to be.
“I’ll acknowledge it, but it’s not something I relish or cherish,” Bochy said. “You talk about having the chance to be a spoiler, that means you’re not very good.”
Against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox, they weren’t even close in a 7-0 loss Monday night. The mistakes came via catcher’s interference, a wild pitch, even a balk that forced home a run.
“We were playing a first-place team and you have to play your best ball,” Bochy said, “and we were off (Monday).”
Jon Lester, on the other hand, had everything going in a dominant outing while pitching into the ninth.
Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit RBI doubles, Shane Victorino added an RBI single among his three hits and Will Middlebrooks had a sacrifice fly for Boston. The Red Sox chose to travel first thing Monday rather than late Sunday night after a 9-6 loss to the Yankees at Fenway Park.
Lester (11-7) allowed six hits, struck out three and walked two in Boston’s seventh shutout. He outpitched two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (6-13) to snap a three-start winless stretch since a victory at Baltimore on July 28. Lester gave way to Brandon Workman after allowing a pair of one-out singles in the ninth.
Lincecum was done after five-plus innings and lost for the fourth time in his last five decisions. Two of his four walks were intentional free passes to Middlebrooks.
“I really didn’t execute my game plan … more often than not you are going to get hurt with pitches up in the zone,” Lincecum said. “I wasn’t doing a good job doing that. The pitches I was leaving up and I wasn’t giving myself a chance.”
Giants pitchers had a balk, wild pitch and hit batsman in the same home game for the first time since April 10, 2010, against Atlanta.
On the balk, Lincecum explained it simply that “my foot slipped.”
The two clubs faced off for just their fourth series and first since Boston took two of three at AT&T Park in an injury-plagued stop. In a lengthy tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims before the game, players from both sides walked out of their dugouts and stood on their respective baselines in a show of solidarity and support.
Lester retired the first nine Giants in order before Andres Torres lined a single to left leading off the fourth.
“All his pitches seemed to be working. He kept people off balance,” San Francisco’s Brandon Belt said of Lester. “You couldn’t really put the good part of the bat on the ball for most of the night.”
The Boston left-hander tossed a complete game — also against Lincecum — in his lone other start against San Francisco, a five-hitter on June 27, 2010, at AT&T Park.
He nearly did it again on a day his teammates flew earlier cross country from Boston.
“Jon was exactly what we needed,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We needed a strong pitching performance. On a night when we could use a guy to get deep in the game, he gave us just that. He wanted every potential to finish out that game but we had agreed that he wasn’t going to go out and grind through the ninth inning just to throw a complete game. Outstanding effort on his part.”
Boston staked Lester to an early lead with three runs in the second — showing no signs of being weary from a 4-hour, 12-minute game Sunday night and then the travel. Will Middlebrooks hit a sacrifice fly and a balk by Lincecum forced in another run.
“He really didn’t have his good stuff, and he’s been throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “He got some pitches up. They’re a good hitting ball club and they took advantage of it.”
Torres also singled in the sixth and eighth innings to finish with three of San Francisco’s six hits and his first multihit game since June 29 at Colorado. The Giants, who had their own long trip home Sunday from Miami, were blanked for the 10th time.
Bochy realizes everybody has similar scheduling challenges.
“It always plays a part. They had to travel, too,” he said. “They had to leave today. It was even on both sides. I do think we had it tough this year.”
Notes: A moment of silence and a video slide show of still photos were held before the national anthem. The Giants wore Boston Strong patches. … At AT&T Park, Lester owns a 0.52 ERA in two starts. … Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, recovering from left hamstring surgery, could join Triple-A Fresno for a rehab assignment in the next few days. … Lefty Jeremy Affeldt, on the DL since July 21 with a strained left groin, is slated to throw off the mound in the coming days. … The Giants dropped to 4-11 in interleague play.