In the fourth inning with a runner on third, on what was a perfect day for baseball at AT&T Park, Shane Victorino lofted a pop up into shallow right field.
The ball ended up dropping at the feet of three confused San Francisco Giants as the Boston Red Sox opened up a 6-1 lead, and knocked out Barry Zito in the process.
The veteran left-hander was making his return to the rotation after getting banished to the bullpen back on August 2nd. After the game he commented: “I just want to capitalize on the opportunity when I get out there.”
On the day, Zito went 3.2 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits. The lefty struck out three and walked a pair, in what could prove to be his final start as a Giant.
“He could have come out better than his numbers indicate,” said manager Bruce Bochy after the game. The skipper sounded hesitant when asked if Zito would get another start. “I don’t know if he’ll start Monday. I’d like to talk to the staff before I talk about that.”
The team now falls to 56-70 (.444) on the season and sit 17.5 games behind the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers who are 73-52 (.584). That deficit is tied for the largest on the season.
Zito immediately found himself in trouble as Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a double to left center. The starter, who was actually 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA at home entering the game, managed to work out of the first without any damage.
In the second, after walking Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks stepped to the plate and drove a two-run home run to left field. Zito had already served up two long foul balls that had home run distance, but had landed just right of the field pole in right field when Middlebrooks connected on his 11th blast of the season.
“It was a cutter,” Zito said of the pitch to Middlebrooks. “And it just didn’t have that late bite.”
“I felt pretty good. I was definitely excited,” said Zito of facing the Red Sox. “Strange stuff happened out there. The nature of the games is so unpredictable.”
In the bottom half of the second, Joaquin Arias, who got the start in place of Pablo Sandoval for a second straight day, got the Giants on the board. The third baseman pulled back a run to make it 2-1 as he deposited his first home run of the season into the seats in left field.
The Red Sox added on another run in the third inning as Dustin Pedroia chopped a double down the third baseline. Jonny Gomes, the Petaluma native, who played for the Oakland A’s last season, then delivered the decisive blow.
Gomes, who hadn’t appeared in the first two games of the series, dumped a single to shallow left to plate a pair as the Red Sox opened up 5-1 lead. Zito was then knocked out of the game after Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro and Brandon Belt were unable to track down a routine pop up in short right field, which gave Boston a sixth run.
“It’s like Bermuda Triangle,” commented Bochy of the patch of grass in shallow right. “It looked like Belt was under it, and then he realized he wasn’t camped under it. There’s really not much to say.”
“It was kind of a freak play,” said Belt. “We need to communicate, and we didn’t do it this time.”
Jean Machi, who was called up from Triple-A Fresno just a day earlier, came on to close out the inning. Mike Kickham, who had also been called back from the minors just a day earlier, was next on for San Francisco. The lefty worked a scoreless sixth before the Red Sox tacked on five runs in the seventh, thanks in part to a three-run home run off the bat of Stephen Drew.
“He was good at times, but there’s no getting around it, we didn’t play well at all,” said Bochy. “We looked flat, we looked bad today, but not for lack of effort.”
The Giants were never able to get anything going off Felix Doubront, who made the start for Boston. The lefty, who had pitched just four innings in back-to-back starts, went eight innings and allowed one run on five hits.
“They shut us down every game,” said Bochy. “It was a tough series. I’m like the players, staff, everybody who’s probably having somewhat of a tough time. I don’t think anybody saw us struggling in all facets of the game.”
Tomorrow night Matt Cain (8-8, 4.35 ERA) takes the mound for the Giants as the Pittsburgh Pirates pay a visit to AT&T Park for a four-game set. Cain picked up the win in his last start and has delivered five straight quality starts. The veteran right-hander beat the Pirates back in June as he shut them out for 6.2 innings and allowed just two hits.
With first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m., Pittsburgh sends out Jeff Locke (9-4, 2.90 ERA). The young left-hander last won on July 21, and in his most recent outing he lasted just 2.2 innings as the Arizona Diamondbacks knocked him around for eight runs.