Cameron, bullpen rescue Red Sox
SAN FRANCISCO — The day started with the Red Sox learning that Dustin Pedroia had a broken bone in his left foot and would be out indefinitely. Then they watched Clay Buchholz grab his leg while running the bases in the second inning and hobble off the field.
“A lot of guys were looking around and saying, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ But you still have to play the game,’’ center fielder Mike Cameron said. “What choice do you have?’’
Cameron did what was needed, cracking a three-run home run in the second inning and making a spectacular catch in the eighth as the Red Sox found a way to beat the San Francisco Giants, 4-2.
A parade of seven relievers worked eight innings and allowed two runs on five hits. Scott Atchison, the first man out of the bullpen, was the winner with Jonathan Papelbon getting the save.
Battered, bruised, and bewildered at the mounting injuries, the 45-31 Sox are only two games out of first place in the American League East.
“We’ve played with so much better personality the last month and a half,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “It’s a good feeling. This team is forming its own personality, which is great.’’
Cameron had a day worthy of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who was among those in the sold-out crowd at AT&T Park.
With two on in the second inning, Cameron sat on a 3-and-1 fastball from Giants rookie lefthander Madison Bumgarner and lined it over the 399-foot mark on the center-field fence. It was the first home run of the season for Cameron and he pumped his right fist in the air as he rounded first base. Cameron had gone 111 at-bats without a home run, his last blast coming in 2009 for the Brewers.
“That was big. I’ve come close and been snake-bit by the wall a few times,’’ Cameron said. “That was good. That’s a good sign to hit a ball to center field with some authority.’’
Cameron has been getting frequent days off because of a torn lower abdominal muscle. But last night marked the third day in a row he has played. He has six RBIs in his last five games.
The home run gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead — Darnell McDonald had homered off Bumgarner in the first. But that advantage was imperiled when Buchholz left the game.
Atchison (1-1) warmed up quickly and allowed one run over 2 1/3 innings.
“I was ready. I was there. Everything was ready. I’m ready to go from the first inning cause I never know,’’ Atchison said “We see [Buchholz] pull up and there’s two or three of us that possibly could have been pitching so you kind of look to see who they’re going to go with. [Pitching coach John Farrell] said, ‘Atch you’re in.’ ’’
Buchholz, who has a hyperextended left knee but may not miss a start, was one of the players waiting to greet Atchison when the game was over.
“He deserves all the credit,’’ Buchholz said. “What a great day for the bullpen.’’
Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen, Dustin Richardson, Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, and Papelbon followed Atchison to the mound.
“If somebody stumbled, we probably would have lost,’’ Francona said. “They had to get them out.’’
Richardson, a rookie lefty, did good work in the sixth inning. After Juan Uribe doubled off Delcarmen and went to third on a single by Pat Burrell, Richardson came in and struck out Pablo Sandoval with a high 3-and-2 fastball. Buster Posey gave the Giants a run with a sacrifice fly to center. Aaron Rowand grounded into a force play to end the inning.
In the eighth, Sandoval drove a pitch from Bard to the wall in center. Cameron turned and sprinted back and made the catch as he tumbled to the warning track.
“For us, at the moment, with the game pretty much on the line, it was a pretty good catch,’’ Cameron said. “I’ve had some tough ones throughout my career to make and that was a tough one, dealing with the wind, the sun and everything else. You’ve just got to feel it.’’
The play helped Sox pitchers retire the final nine Giants in order.
“The home run is huge. The play in center might have been bigger,’’ Francona said. “He kind of willed himself to catch that ball. That was a great play.’’
Papelbon got the final three outs for his 17th save, shedding the memory of two rocky outings in Colorado on the first leg of the road trip. Papelbon, who had allowed five runs on six hits in those games, was eager to get back on the mound.
“It was a pride thing,’’ Papelbon said. “It’s going to take more than that to knock me out, two slip-ups like that. The American League East is like a heavyweight fight.’’
Papelbon rambled on for several minutes, making one boxing reference after another, his eyes growing wider by the second.
John Lackey, sitting nearby while drinking a beer, laughed at the closer’s antics.
“This team somehow keeps going,’’ he said. “We got some bad news this morning and look at us now. We keep finding a way.’’