Giants stalled by Dice-K

Giants stalled by Dice-K

BOSTON -- At the current pace, struggling offensively won't be a trend for the Giants. It'll be a trait.

San Francisco continued its prolonged slump Saturday by victimizing Matt Cain yet again in a 1-0 Interleague loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Cain allowed three hits in seven innings, lapsing only with one out in the fourth inning when Manny Ramirez homered. This would have been a winning effort for most teams on most days. But the Giants mustered just four hits while absorbing their fourth shutout defeat in 10 games. They've been blanked seven times overall, most in the Major Leagues.

"It's on our shoulders when you can't go out and play offensively [like we have] in pretty much the last month or so," first baseman Rich Aurilia said.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that the Giants' next big hit, which never came Saturday, could be a "contagious" event that sparks a turnaround. Until that happens, the Giants have no choice but to keep trying, as basic as that sounds.

"At times like this, your true character is revealed," said Bochy, whose team has lost three consecutive games and 15 of 21. "There are times when you're tested. We certainly have been the last couple of weeks with tough losses. The only thing you can do is keep pushing forward and looking forward."

This kind of talk soon will ring hollow.

"It hasn't turned for us yet, and it needs to soon, because it's not getting any earlier in the season," Aurilia said.

Against Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who yielded three hits and struck out eight in seven innings, the Giants created only one genuine scoring opportunity. Randy Winn drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, and Ray Durham singled. Barry Bonds' sharp groundout into an overshifted infield, which prevented the Red Sox from turning a double play, advanced the runners. With Boston's infield playing back, Bengie Molina lined out to shortstop. Had the Red Sox constricted their infielders to cut off a runner at the plate, Molina's ball might have cleared the infield for an RBI single.

"When things are going bad, that stuff happens," Aurilia said. Matsuzaka hit Nate Schierholtz with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases but struck out Aurilia looking with the count full.

A similar pattern unfolded in the eighth, when Winn walked and Durham singled off reliever Hideki Okajima. After falling behind 2-0 on Bonds, Okajima recovered to fire three strikes in a row, including a called third strike. Molina flied out and pinch-hitter Kevin Frandsen grounded into a fielder's choice.

Although Bonds left Fenway Park without commenting, players on both teams took issue with plate umpire Charlie Reliford's strike zone.

"There were definitely some pitches that were liberal," center fielder Dave Roberts said.

The complaints didn't drown out admiration for the afternoon's pitching.

Cain (2-7) was luckless, receiving zero runs for the second start in a row, but impressed Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

"He reminded me of Pap [with] the life through the zone with the fastball," Francona said, referring to Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "Don't look at that record. He's a good pitcher."

Cain's 3.15 ERA confirms that. As for his luck, Cain refused to dwell on the fact that the Giants have scored two or fewer runs for him in nine of his 14 starts.

"There's no way to react to it," he said. "It hurts because we lost as a team. It doesn't matter if I'm 2-7 or 7-2. If we lose, that's the big thing."

Of the 2-1 pitch Ramirez planted into the seats atop Fenway's Green Monster, Cain was succinct: "It was a spinning slider and he took advantage of it."

Matsuzaka (8-5) also took advantage of the Giants by recording his first scoreless appearance.

"He's different in the sense that he pitches more off his off-speed stuff," Roberts said of Matsuzaka, who broke a personal three-game losing streak. "As a hitter, you're always taught to hit off a fastball. When you get a guy throwing you breaking ball, breaking ball, mixing in a fastball, then another breaking ball, it's a little bit different. He does a good job of changing speeds as far as his delivery."

Matsuzaka received a thrill from facing Bonds, holding him hitless in two at-bats after intentionally walking him with Roberts on second base and two outs in the first inning.

"I've faced many great batters on the way, but he certainly emitted a great aura about him," Matsuzaka said. "That's rare to see even among those great hitters."

The right-hander cited the sixth-inning jam as a critical juncture.

"I was able to reach inside myself and display a side of myself that I haven't been able to show up to that point," Matsuzaka said. "That said to me, hopefully, that I'm heading in a new and good direction."

The Giants long for the day when they can say the same thing.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.