OAKLAND -- In one sense, Jon Lester could find some solace in the fact his Saturday night start was far better than his last one, when he gave up some rockets and couldn't get an out in the sixth inning.
But in another, "better'' seemed like cold comfort for Lester, since it didn't result in a Red Sox win.
Lester allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings, and sure, that was a positive, comparitively speaking.
But on the scoreboard, it all looked the same.
"A loss is a loss,'' shrugged Lester after the Red Sox were shutout by A.J. Griffin and closer Grant Balfour. "It doesn't matter how well you pitch when you lose, so I have to take the positives out of the game and move forward. That's all I can really do.''
"He's a very strong competitor,'' said John Farrell. "He wants the best for himself and this team and a loss is a loss. But I think when you peel the surface back, there's a lot of positive inside the outing.''
Lester's teammates weren't able to provide much in the way of offensive backing, stymied by Griffin throughout.
The Sox had baserunners in each of the first six innings, but unlike their last two games when the club seemed to collect big two-out hits in bunches, they lacked the ability to do so Saturday, going 0-for-5 with runner in scoring position while stranding eight.
Lester allowed a solo homer to Derek Norris for the first Oakland run. Like the homer he allowed to Raul Ibanez in Seattle on Monday night, it came on an 0-and-2 pitch.
"I'm sure Jon's frustrated by that,'' said Farrell. "He's trying to go down and away from Norris and he ends up pulling a fastball back over the middle of the plate for the home run.''
In the sixth, the A's bunched together a walk and two singles to scratch out another run on a single by Yoenis Cespedes.
A third run came off reliever Junichi Tazawa, but was charged to Lester.
Pressed, even Lester allowed that there were some good things to take out of this, his final outing in the first half.
"Commanded pitches well, threw a lot of good quality off-speed pitches, moved the fastball around,'' he said, ticking off the things he liked from his start. "I think there's a lot of positives. Pitch-to-pitch, everything was pretty good.''
Lester has just two wins since May 15, but he took issue with the suggestion that he had been a "different pitcher'' since getting out to a 6-0 start to his season.
"Different results,'' clarified Lester. "Stuff's the same, mindset is the same. Just bad execution. When it comes down to those times in the game where you need to execute pitches and not allow runs to come across the plate, I just didn't do a very good job of that. So, I'll take the break, get away for a little bit, come back fresh and it's almost like it's a new season for me.''