ATLANTA — Former Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was in the clubhouse before Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, reconnecting with old friends.
Cameron was accompanied by his son Dazmon, one of the top high school juniors in the country and a candidate to be picked first in the amateur draft a year from now.
Before he left the room, Cameron introduced himself to another talented young player, Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
“I saw him from a distance at spring training in 2011 but we had never met,” Bradley said. “He was a great player. I used to pick him for my team in video games.”
Bradley has struggled at the plate this season and Cameron offered some simple advice. “I told him to hang in there and don’t miss the fastball,” he said.
Bradley was paying attention. When the Braves intentionally walked David Ross to load the bases for Bradley with two outs in the seventh inning, Bradley jumped on a fastball from lefthander Luis Avilan and smacked it into left field for a two-run single.
The hit, his second of the night, helped the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory.
That a 2-for-4 night improved his batting average to .201 shows what kind of season Bradley has had. But the Red Sox have stuck with the 24-year-old rookie, in part because they lack better options. But there’s also an organizational-wide belief in his skills.
“He’s got a calling card that he brings and that’s the defensive side of the game. We’ve got to allow some growth offensively to take place,” manager John Farrell said. “Once we were up 4-3, I wasn’t going to pinch hit for him in that situation and he comes up big with the two RBIs. He’s learning on the job.”
Bradley’s hit capped a four-run inning that gave the Sox the lead. There is no more modest a winning streak than two in a row, but for the beleaguered Red Sox, winning two games against one of the best teams in the National League represents significant improvement after a 10-game losing skid.
John Lester (5-6) went six innings for the win. Four relievers combined on the final nine outs with Koji Uehara getting the save.
The Red Sox had not won consecutive games since May 10-11 in Texas. They return to Fenway Park Wednesday night to continue the series against the Braves seeking their first three-game win streak of the season.
Contributing to the win meant a lot to Bradley, who was pinch hit for in three consecutive games last week.
“It’s nice to actually get results with the confidence,” Bradley said. “I was definitely going up there confident. I feel very confident every single day I go out there. You can only hope the results come along with it with the approach.”
Trailing, 3-2, the Sox scored four runs against the Atlanta bullpen in the seventh. The breaks they never seemed to get in the 10-game losing streak snapped on Monday all showed up at once.
Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia singled with one out against righthander Anthony Varvaro. Against Avilan, David Ortiz went the other way and dropped a bloop single into left field. Bogaerts scored.
Jonny Gomes then dropped a popup single down the line in right to load the bases.
Grady Sizemore shattered his bat on a fastball and grounded to shortstop. Pedroia scored on a ball hit too slowly to be a double play.
“We were able to bunch some hits together, we were able to catch a couple of breaks,” Farrell said. “It was good to see maybe the worm turn a little bit with runners in scoring position.”
Bradley broke the game open after the intentional walk. He is 13 of 43 (.302) with runners in scoring position.
“Every superstar was young at one point. Every superstar struggled. Don’t really know where he’s going to go. But that’s great for his self-esteem,” Gomes said.
On a night of unexpected events, it was Gomes who made the best defensive play of the night in the outfield with a diving catch to take a hit away from Gerald Laird in the eighth inning and keep the tying run from coming to the plate.
Bradley said it was one of the best catches the Sox have had this season.
“The one thing we get from Jonny is everything that he has to offer,” Farrell said.
“Another miracle,” cracked Gomes, who disagrees with scouting reports that suggest he’s not a good outfielder.
Lester allowed three runs on eight hits and left the mound trailing before the offense made an uneven night much easier to take. It was a fight for the lefty throughout, whether it was his command or the floating strike zone of umpire Bob Davidson.
“Grind from the first pitch. Made us work a lot,” said Lester, who makes his home not too far from where Cameron lives and had a number of family and friends at the game. “Made some decent pitches when we had to. Minimized damage when we had to. That seventh inning was huge, to pick me up like that.”
A day after Pedroia and Ortiz drove in six runs, the far less-heralded trio of Sizemore, Ross, and Bradley had five hits and four RBIs.
“Our guys are having some fun playing the game,” Farrell said. “It was a tough 10-game stretch we came through. But there’s been plenty of energy injected back into that dugout.”