The last time Boston and San Francisco met more than three years ago, Jon Lester gave the Red Sox a victory in a marquee pitching matchup with Tim Lincecum, who ended up helping the Giants win the 2010 World Series.
Neither San Francisco nor its former Cy Young Award winner are nearly as successful heading into this meeting.
Lester opposes Lincecum again as AL East-leading Boston visits the last-place Giants in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
These teams haven’t faced each other since June 27, 2010, when Lester struck out nine and gave up one run while tossing a five-hitter in a 5-1 Boston victory at AT&T Park. He would go on to win a career-best 19 games, though the Red Sox missed the postseason for the first time in four years.
Lincecum’s performance in that contest was one to forget as he allowed four runs in three innings, but his season ended soaked in champagne as the Giants won their first of two World Series in three seasons.
San Francisco (55-68) sits at the bottom of the NL West in 2013, though, with Lincecum (6-12, 4.38 ERA) having an up-and-down season. He gave up six runs in six innings of a 6-5 loss at Washington on Wednesday after going 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA over his previous three outings.
The Giants had won three straight before falling 6-5 to Miami on Sunday despite Hunter Pence hitting his first homer in 111 at-bats.
“The focus is on each individual at-bat, so when you don’t (hit a home run) for a long time that can be frustrating, but it doesn’t change the constant of being ready for the next at-bat and the next at-bat after that and trusting that eventually it will happen,” Pence said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the win.”
Manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t pleased that Madison Bumgarner and the bullpen couldn’t make a lead from Pence’s first-inning, two-run shot stick.
“We gave up too many runs and missed a couple of good opportunities,” Bochy said. “We let this one get away, the way I look at it.”
Pence is hitting .467 during an eight-game hitting streak versus Boston (73-53), which also let a victory slip away Sunday.
The Red Sox blew a three-run lead in a 9-6 loss to the New York Yankees despite two hits each from Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Will Middlebrooks.
Boston, which has lost four of five and leads Tampa Bay by only one game in the East, will look to bounce back with help from Lester, who has pitched well on the road since the All-Star break.
Lester (10-7, 4.31) has been solid in three of his last four starts, with the major blemish coming when he gave up six runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-6 loss to Arizona on Aug. 2. The other three outings came away from home as Lester went 1-1 with a 1.33 ERA.
The left-hander allowed three runs - two earned - in 6 1-3 innings of Boston’s 4-3, 10-inning loss at Toronto on Wednesday.
Boston has lost five of its last seven on the road, though San Francisco has dropped 17 of 24 at home.
Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli has missed the last two games with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and likely won’t play in San Francisco. Boston plans to give Ortiz at least two starts at first against the Giants, a position he’s played for only six innings this season.