SAN FRANCISCO -- Missed opportunities are frustrating when they happen, and infuriating when hindsight reveals they played a major role in a loss.
Such was the case for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, as they couldn't capitalize on the early chances they had and then went silent for the rest of the game, buying the Giants enough time to come back for a 3-2 victory that was literally a walk-off.
Marco Scutaro, a valuable member of the Red Sox for two seasons, drew a walk with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth to end it.
But the Red Sox knew full well that the walk by Scutaro wasn't even close to the biggest reason this game ended in defeat instead of victory.
"We had a couple of golden opportunities in the first and the third and we couldn't push across a run," bemoaned Red Sox manager John Farrell.
The tough loss dropped Boston into a first-place tie with the Rays in the American League East, though Tampa Bay actually leads by two games in the loss column.
Brayan Villarreal, who was promoted from Triple-A on Tuesday, walked Scutaro on four pitches. It was the first batter Villarreal faced in a Boston uniform after being acquired from the Tigers as part of the Jake Peavy three-way trade July 30.
The only other right-hander Farrell had left in his bullpen was closer Koji Uehara, but he was being held out for a save opportunity.
If Scutaro seemed overly patient during his at-bat, it's because hitting coach Hensley Muelens made him aware that control hadn't been Villarreal's specialty.
"I wanted to make sure I hit my pitch and not be too aggressive," Scutaro said.
Down, 2-1, the Giants came back and tied it in the bottom of the eighth on a sacrifice fly to right by Buster Posey. Given that the ball was in foul territory, Shane Victorino at least had the option of letting the ball drop and seeing how the rest of the at-bat would play out.
But that was a lot easier to say after the fact.
Victorino was mindful of the fact that Posey could easily have clubbed a home run or a two-run double into the gap that would have put the Giants in front instead of merely tying it. Also, the way the wind blows in San Francisco, there's always the chance of the ball whipping back to fair territory.
"I had no second guess while the play was going on," said Victorino. "After the play was done, I thought about it and I even asked [Dustin] Pedroia after the inning, 'Should I have let the ball fall?' and he said, 'Uh, it might have been close, it might have ended up fair,' and I said OK, but you know, those are all the kind of scenarios that pop through your head. But I had no intentions at all of doing that."
Farrell completely agreed with Victorino's thought process.
"That's one of those plays, with the wind blowing back in, not knowing if that's going to drift back on the foul line," said Farrell. "He's almost straddling the line. I know the umpire ruled it in foul territory, but Shane doesn't have the view of the umpire in that situation. He feels he can get behind it and make a strong throw which unfortunately probably was two strides too late."
Given the angle Victorino was at, it was tough for him to get as much strength on the throw as he wanted.
"I was thinking about getting there, making the play and getting the best throw I could off," said Victorino. "Unfortunately I didn't get as good a throw as I wanted to, again, approaching the wall and cornering myself against the wall. It is what it is, they tie the game. Unfortunately we lost."
That rally against Junichi Tazawa started on one-out singles by Scutaro and Brandon Belt, putting runners at the corners with one out.
San Francisco finished the job against lefty reliever Franklin Morales and Villarreal in the ninth. Roger Kieschnick got things started in that final frame with a one-out single. Andres Torres drew a two-out walk. Morales hit Hector Sanchez to load the bases, leaving Villarreal with no margin for error.
The 3-0 pitch was at least close to being a strike.
"It was tough," said starter Jake Peavy, who took a no-decision. "It would have been nice to come in here and win these first two with a chance to sweep tomorrow. I feel like we got squeezed. The last pitch was a strike. There's no other way to say it. It was a strike. The players who were involved in that ninth inning would tell you they've got to do a better job, but at the end of the day, for an umpire not to make the call to cost us a game, that's extremely unfortunate when every game matters."
Peavy worked 5 2/3 strong innings (five hits, one run, four strikeouts) and was in position to get the win before Posey tied it.
Top prospect Xander Bogaerts had a fairly uneventful Major League debut, going 0-for-3, but he did make a nice play at shortstop to help Peavy out of one of the few jams he was in.
Peavy threw 92 pitches and likely would have worked longer if the game was being played under American League rules. But Farrell gave the veteran the hook, knowing that he was the second batter due up in the top of the seventh.
"Yeah, you don't ever like to come out of a game," said Peavy. "It was tough coming out. But that's the way the game goes. That's the move John thought was the right move at the time. So be it."
At least at the outset, it looked like it was going to be a productive night for the Red Sox offensively. Jacoby Ellsbury opened the game with a single and stole second. Victorino got hit by a pitch. Pedroia reached on an infield single. Presented with an RBI opportunity, Mike Carp lifted a sacrifice fly to right for the first run of the game.
Bogaerts came up with the bases loaded and two outs in his first Major League at-bat and got a good piece of the ball, but the grounder went off starter Ryan Vogelsong's glove and right into the glove of Scutaro, who fired to first for the easy out.
The switch-hitting Victorino, who again batted righty against a righty, made it a 2-0 game in the third when he laced a homer down the line in left.
"It happened early in the game and it was just unfortunate that we weren't able to win," Victorino said. "It was nice to get it but ultimately it's not about me, it's not individual stuff. It's about us getting a loss at the end of the night."