Red Sox breathe sigh of relief

TORONTO -- When Bobby Valentine showed up here around noon Monday, he figured he'd find an all-but-empty clubhouse. A couple of coaches, maybe a trainer, a clubhouse kid or two.

He was wrong. The second baseman had beaten him to Rogers Centre, and, Valentine said, he was pacing.

"Nah," Dustin Pedroia said. "He might think I was, but he hasn't been around me that long."

Perhaps Valentine was merely projecting onto Pedroia the collective anxiety that had gone beyond the team's ever-restive fan base and burrowed its way inside the clubhouse walls, Adrian Gonzalez declaring after a third straight loss Sunday that the Boston Red Sox had to approach Monday's game with the Toronto Blue Jays as if it were the last game of the season.

"That's a little drastic," Valentine said of Gonzalez's statement after the Red Sox rallied to win their first game of 2012, 4-2 over Toronto, ensuring that their season will extend to at least Patriots Day.

"But I like when guys say things that excite the fans, and then they get to walk their talk."

Pedroia, who insisted he wasn't pacing before the game, had every reason to strut afterward, having hit a sixth-inning home run that accounted for Boston's first run, then smacking a leadoff double in the ninth that led to a three-run bullpen implosion, this time by the other guys.

Instead, Pedroia chose to salute the effort of the Red Sox pitchers, which began with a splendid 2012 debut by Venezuelan left-hander Felix Doubront, was bridged by three tidy innings of relief by Scott Atchison, and culminated with a save by Alfredo Aceves, for whom the word "embattled" only begins to describe the host of doubters arrayed against him.

"Felix was awesome," Pedroia said. "He attacked the zone. Atch, awesome. He got the ball to Ace, and he did his thing. Our guys have got great stuff. We all trust them and have their backs."

Aceves, Valentine revealed, had delivered a one-word message to him before the game Monday.

Wrote it out, in fact.

"Trust," said Aceves, who had faced five batters without recording an out in two losses but Monday night set down all three Blue Jays he faced in the ninth for his first save.

"We're still going to trust. We lost three games in Detroit, and everything was negative. But we stick together and one of those things I think is trust. Whatever you want to trust, just trust."

Aceves said he had to remember to trust his stuff, but people who write notes often are looking for a response. Aceves got the one he wanted, in the midst of all the swirling speculation that a job he'd just inherited a week ago might not be his for long, especially with the rabble in the street calling for Daniel Bard to be moved from the starting rotation to the back of the bullpen.

"I told him I trusted him," Valentine said. "He knew he was going to have the ball."

And the Red Sox did know that one of these days, they would win a game. Pedroia put them in position to do so when he smacked a high fastball from Sergio Santos to the wall in left, beat the throw to second with a headfirst slide, dusted himself off and took third on a passed ball, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Gonzalez after a terrific at-bat.

"Adrian has shown me in a short time that he's as good as there is in the game," Valentine said.
"He fouled off a down-and-in slider down the first-base line with two strikes, then hit that sacrifice fly off 97 up around his chin. He was going to take it upon himself to drive that run in, and I'm glad he did."

It didn't end there. Walks to David Ortiz and Cody Ross followed, prompting Blue Jays manager John Farrell to finally lift his closer, who departed to boos from a sellout crowd. Lefty Luis Perez entered, Ryan Sweeney singled through the right side, and Darnell McDonald, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Ortiz, scored when Jose Bautista's throw bounced away from catcher J.P. Arencibia.

"A great effort by a whole group of guys out there trying their butts off to get that first win, and they got it," Valentine said. "And we're glad to be able to get Ben [Cherington] his first win as general manager and the 2012 team its first win as a team."

How did they celebrate Valentine's first win as Red Sox manager? They didn't, said Ortiz, who had two more hits Monday but also was thrown out on a sneak-attack stolen base try with the Sox down by a run in the seventh.

Instead of a party?

"No more crying," Ortiz said.

But there's no crying in baseball.

"Yes, there is," he said. "There's crying in baseball. I've cried a lot."

There were no tears this night. No bullpen controversies either, except in Toronto, where new closer Santos has blown his first two opportunities.

And Tuesday morning, Valentine will show up early again. And Dustin Pedroia, who asks where else is he going to hang out when he's not home, will already be here.

"Hopefully, this'll spark us," Pedroia said. "This early in the season, everyone's got nerves, going hard, trying to settle down and find their rhythm."

And they will. Trust him.