BOSTON -- And on the fifth day, they played baseball. And it was good.
So good, so good.
Five days after two explosions shook the foundation of Boston's most cherished sporting tradition, a Sox game before noon and the simultaneous running of the Boston Marathon, the Red Sox made a triumphant return to Fenway Park, beating the Kansas City Royals 4-3 on an afternoon of catharsis, celebration and remembrance.
David Ortiz, who had played just once since July 17 and not at all this season, returned with emotion and elan. During a moving pregame ceremony, Ortiz profanely proclaimed his affection for his adopted home ("This is our f---ing city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong"). He then made his 2013 debut a successful one, singling in the fourth for Boston's first hit of the game and driving in the team's first run with another single in the sixth.
But on a day fraught with moments likely to be permanently etched in the collective memory of this community -- the tribute to the first responders and law enforcement personnel, the haunting recording of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" accompanying a video montage of the week's events and Neil Diamond showing up in a Red Sox cap to sing his signature "Sweet Caroline" -- Daniel Nava lifted an entire city with one swing.
With the Red Sox trailing by a run in the eighth, Nava connected for a three-run home run into the Sox bullpen that gave the Sox a 4-2 lead, sending spasms of joy through a sellout crowd of 35,152 and eliciting bone-rattling high fives and chest bumps from Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, who scored ahead of him.
Gomes had entered the game in the eighth as a pinch hitter for Shane Victorino, who departed after experiencing tightness in his back. Gomes doubled off the Monster, and Dustin Pedroia walked. Ortiz grounded into a double play, with Gomez taking third, and Royals manager Ned Yost brought in reliever Kelvin Herrera to face Napoli. He drew a walk, and Nava, who had hit a game-winning three-run home run in the home opener, connected for his fourth home run of the season.
The Royals drew to within a run when Lorenzo Cain homered, his fourth hit of the game, to lead off the ninth against closer Andrew Bailey. The Royals put two more runners on base, but Bailey induced Alex Gordon to ground out to shortstop Stephen Drew to end it.
The Sox have won seven in a row, their longest winning streak since a nine-game run in 2011. Clay Buchholz went eight innings for his fourth win against zero losses.