SAN FRANCISCO – Balance is a crucial component to any successful action in baseball. A home run swing requires a balanced lower body. A perfectly located pitch is a delicate balance between a plethora of moving parts. And a good baseball team needs a balanced combination of pitching, defense and hitting.
The Giants had none of the above in a 7-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox Monday at AT&T Park.
Tim Lincecum lost his balance mid-delivery for a run-scoring balk in a disastrous second inning and Jon Lester kept the Giants off-balance and uncomfortable in the batter’s box all night.
Including Boston’s early three-run rally Monday, Lincecum has allowed 18 runs in that fateful second frame this season, compared to just nine in the third. The nightmare inning, which included a catcher’s interference call for the Giants' sixth error in their last seven games in addition to the aforementioned balk, required Lincecum to throw 31 pitches.
“Frustration kind of sets in after that second inning, but you have to come back and do work for the next however many innings you’re allowed,” said Lincecum, who was charged with five runs on nine hits and four walks in five-plus innings of work. “I didn’t do a very good job of that.”
Giants manger Bruce Bochy said it was clear early on that his right-hander wasn’t working with an effective arsenal.
“He didn’t have his good stuff tonight. He left some pitches up and that’s a good-hitting ballclub and they took advantage of it.”
Lincecum often had a Boston batter in a two-strike hole, only to let them off the hook by leaving a pitch over the middle instead of out of the zone.
“I didn’t really execute my gameplan,” Lincecum said. “More often than not you’re going to get hurt with pitches up in the zone. And I wasn’t doing a good job of putting guys away when I got ahead. The pitches that I was leaving up were middle of the plate. I wasn’t really giving myself a chance to get out of anything.”
While Lincecum was off balance, Lester was on point. Boston’s southpaw entered Monday’s game with a complete game to his credit in his lone start, also opposite Lincecum, at AT&T Park in 2010 and was even better this time around. He finished two outs shy of completing the shutout, but limited the Giants to just six singles, three from Andres Torres, and two walks.
“We’ve got to do a better job as hitters coming in and having our approach and sticking with it and hoping things work out for us,” said Brandon Belt, who went 0-for-4 and left three runners on base against Lester. “They did a good job of keeping us off-balance and they played better than we did.”
Bochy was asked after the game if the Giants’ grueling travel schedule might have played a part in the lackluster performance. He responded by reminding everyone that the Red Sox arrived in San Francisco Monday morning following a Sunday night game.
“Sometimes a pitcher out there, he makes you look flat because you’re not doing anything offensively,” Bochy said, with extra emphasis on ‘anything.’
The Giants are flat lining, especially against A.L. competition. Monday’s loss drops San Francisco to 4-11 in interleague play this season for a .267 winning percentage, the second-lowest in baseball.
“You’ve got to play your best ball when you’re playing a club like this and we were off tonight,” Bochy said.
That quote sounds like something a manager of a mediocre club should say after losing to the defending World Series champions. Instead, the afterglow of the Giants' second title in three years has long since been extinguished as disheartening losses, like Monday’s, continue to pile up.
In last place with a 55-69 record, there’s nothing but pride hanging in the balance for the disappointing 2013 Giants. But they better find their balance – on the mound, in the field, and at the plate – if they hope to close out the campaign with any semblance of a positive outlook for next season.