The Blue Jays story is about plays made, and plays not made.
At AT&T Park on Tuesday night, Josh Johnson came off the disabled list to pitch with the form that had the Blue Jays excited and a prognosticator or two listing him as a Cy Young candidate during spring training.
But the bats went dormant against Tim Lincecum and, for a third consecutive one-run loss, the Blue Jays lack of execution on defence contributed directly to a defeat.
Watch: Giants beat Blue Jays
Hunter Pence reached on third baseman Edwin Encarnacion’s throwing error to start the second inning. There appeared to be no damage done as Johnson induced Brandon Belt to send a routine double-play grounder to second baseman Emilio Bonifacio. But Bonificio bobbled the ball, resulting in only a single out at first base. Andres Torres followed by hitting a two-run homer off a changeup, enough to furnish the Giants a 2-1 victory in front of the 196th consecutive sellout at AT&T Park.
Encarnacion is playing third base during interleague play with Brett Lawrie on the disabled list. An alternative would be to play Mark DeRosa at third but that would leave either Encarnacion or the hot-hitting Adam Lind on the bench.
“We’ve got guys playing out of position,” Gibbons said. “We’ve got guys not known as defenders – they’re hitters and that comes back and bites you sometimes.”
Especially in one-run games. In those contests, the Blue Jays record is 7-14, the difference between contending and not contending. Their overall record dropped again in the double-digits-under-.500 zone, at 24-34. They plan an afternoon game at AT&T Wednesday, with R.A. Dickey facing Barry Zito to wind up the two-game series.
Johnson (0-2), pitching for the first time since April 21, allowed six hits and struck out five, needing only 97 pitches to get through seven innings.
Giants starter Tim Lincecum (4-5) had lost three consecutive starts, giving up 14 runs in 16-1/3 innings. Against the Jays, though, he looked like one of the players immortalized by bronze statue outside the stadium, Juan Marichal. Aided by solid defensive support, he allowed only three hits in seven innings and struck out six.
Melky Cabrera, booed consistently but not lustily in his first return to San Francisco since being suspended 50 games last August for use of a banned substance and subsequently left off the postseason roster, got two of the hits.
He hit the first single moments after being introduced as the Jays leadoff hitter, in the first. On a Jose Bautista grounder, the Giants turned the double play that the Jays had failed to execute an inning later, leaving the bases empty when Encarnacion followed with his 17th homer of the season, to straightaway centre.
The Jays threatened only once more after Johnson drew a walk and Cabrera singled in the fifth inning. Bautista hit a scorching line drive to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who snared the ball and quickly threw to second to double off Johnson. Second baseman Marco Scutaro had to dive for the throw and while the ball squirted loose, umpire Dan Bellino was not in position to see whether Scutaro caught the ball cleanly, yet made a quick and dramatic call.
“I didn’t think he [caught] it,” Johnson said, adding that his eyes were closed momentarily as he dove back into the dirt and when he caught sight of the ball, it was lying on the ground.
Johnson said he began trusting his slider in the second inning, and other than the home run pitch, the changeup worked effectively to keep the Giants hitters off balance. He changed the grip on the changeup to slow it down, and counter his hard pitches.