TORONTO — Adrian Gonzalez was the voice of reason when the Red Sox started last season with six straight losses, saying day after day that there was no reason to panic.
When this season started with three wrenching losses in Detroit, Gonzalez traded platitudes for passion, saying that Monday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays had to be played like it was the last of the season.
Gonzalez backed up his words in the top of ninth inning, driving in the tying run as the Sox went on to beat the Blue Jays, 4-2.
It was, under the circumstances, an epic at-bat. With Dustin Pedroia on third and no outs, Gonzalez worked the count full against Sergio Santos before fouling off two pitches and hitting a high pitch plenty deep enough.
With 0-for-the-season Kevin Youkilis up next, Gonzalez had to be the man.
“Adrian has shown me in a short time that he’s as good as there is in the game,” Valentine said. “He was going to take it upon himself to drive that run in. I’m glad he did.”
Said Gonzalez: “You’re not going to stand up there and take strike three. I went after a high pitch. When you know you’re in a sacrifice fly situation you’re looking for something up.”
The Sox would score two more runs off Santos. Cancel the crisis; the Bobby Valentine era has its first victory. The Sox even had a no-drama save as Alfredo Aceves retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth.
“We needed a win, let’s be honest,” Gonzalez said. “We didn’t want to start 0-6 like we did last year and start heading down that road. It was huge.”
The late surge of offense made a winner of Scott Atchison, who pitched three near-perfect innings in relief of Felix Doubront.
“What works best for me is attacking the strike zone,” said Atchison, who needed only 31 pitches to record nine outs and give the Sox a chance.
Doubront left after five innings trailing, 2-1. He allowed four hits with three walks and struck out six. He was not particularly efficient, throwing 101 pitches. But he was effective.
“That was a really well-pitched game tonight. Felix took spring training right into the game,” Valentine said. “ I thought he had great stuff. His curveball was terrific; his fastball was moving.”
Valentine believes that Doubront will get better results as the umpires adjust to him. According to the manger, Doubront’s fastball “darts” and is hard to call.
It was left to Aceves to get the final three outs. He faced five hitters in the Detroit series, failing to record an out. But with his uniform pants pulled up high to show his red socks, Aceves retired the Jays in order.
Before the game, Aceves wrote Valentine a note saying to trust him. The manager took him at his word and maybe the Red Sox do have a pitcher who can ably fill in for the injured Andrew Bailey.
“We stick together and one of those things is trust,” Aceves said. “Whatever you want to trust, just trust. I need to keep that in mind, that I have to trust my stuff.”
Valentine sat at his desk after the game with a big smile. It was his first victory in the majors since 2002.
“It was a great effort by a whole group of guys out there tonight,” Valentine said. “They were trying their butts off to get that first win and we got it. I’m glad we were able to get Ben [Cherington] his first win as general manager and the 2012 team its first win as a team.”