The Boston Red Sox have plenty of reasons to look forward to taking the field at Fenway Park this weekend.
None more than the chance to help their hometown heal from one of the most tragic events in the city's history.
With slugger David Ortiz expected to make his season debut and Clay Buchholz hoping to remain undefeated, the Red Sox try for a seventh consecutive victory Saturday against the Kansas City Royals in their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings.
Shortly after the Red Sox (11-4) won 3-2 over Tampa Bay in Monday's annual Patriots Day game, two bombs exploded near the downtown finish line of the Boston Marathon. The alleged act of terrorism killed three people, injured more than 170 and jarred the collective hearts of a city and nation.
On Friday night, the Red Sox and Royals (8-6) hoped to provide another element in the healing process for the city of Boston, but the game was postponed with the area on lockdown as various local and national law enforcement agencies searched for the second suspect tied to the bombings.
"You would much rather play, but there are bigger things at stake here than baseball," Royals infielder Elliot Johnson tweeted Friday according to MLB's official website.
Though that was suspect was finally apprehended Friday night, a makeup date for the series opener has yet to be announced. Saturday's contest remains as scheduled."It's going to be great," said Jon Lester , who pitched seven strong innings in Boston's 6-3 win at Cleveland on Thursday. "Maybe for a couple of hours it can get back to being Boston and watching a baseball game and not thinking about all the other things. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that."
Though the Royals have dropped seven of 10 at Fenway Park, they also are looking forward to Friday's contest.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to go into that city and play in that town when it means more than just playing baseball," Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas told MLB's official website. "It's going to be nice to go into a town and be able to help people out."
During their three-game sweep of Cleveland, the Red Sox put a symbolic jersey in their dugout that had "BOSTON 617 STRONG" on the back. They'll likely do the same with a home jersey at Fenway and have the Red Sox logo "B" with the word "Strong" under it on the Green Monster.
Red Sox fans can certainly find comfort in their team's start after missing the postseason the last three years. Boston leads the AL East and can win seven straight for the first time since 2011.
That success came without Ortiz, who started on the disabled list with an Achilles injury that limited him to 90 games in 2012. The slugger went 4 for 20 during a rehab assignment that ended Thursday when he homered for Triple-A Pawtucket.
"He feels good about where he's at, and all things are pointing to his return," manager John Farrell said.
Ortiz has batted .371 with five homers and 23 RBIs in his last 16 games versus Kansas City.
Buchholz (3-0, 0.41 ERA), meanwhile, has thrown 18 scoreless innings since allowing his only run - a homer at Yankee Stadium on April 3. He's yielded 11 hits and struck out 23 in 22 innings overall.
The right-hander, who took a no-hitter in the eighth Sunday versus Tampa Bay, ultimately allowing two hits and fanning 11 in the 5-0 win, will try not to get caught up in the emotion of a special day.
"I'm going to try to keep my emotions under wraps as much as possible," he told the Red Sox's official website. "Given the circumstances, it's going to be a day that's in pursuit of recovery for everyone who had to face losses."
Buchholz is 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA against the Royals, but has not faced them since 2010.
Kansas City counters with James Shields (1-2, 3.43), who went 2-9 with a 5.86 ERA at Fenway for Tampa Bay. However, he allowed four hits in 8 1-3 innings of 1-0 win at Boston last season.
The right-hander gave up three runs, two on a homer, and one other hit in nine innings of a 3-2 loss to Toronto on Saturday.
Cain is batting .424 in his last nine games, but is 2 for 15 with a homer and six strikeouts at Fenway.
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|Boston Red Sox|
|April 14, 2013||Joel Hanrahan||15-Day DL||Sore right hamstring|
|April 07, 2013||John Lackey||15-Day DL||Right biceps strain|
|April 06, 2013||John Lackey||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right biceps strain|
|March 27, 2013||Stephen Drew||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|March 27, 2013||Stephen Drew||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|March 22, 2013||David Ortiz||15-Day DL||Right Achilles soreness|
BOSTON (AP) -- David Ortiz has been in the middle of some of Fenway Park's greatest moments. None of them seemed more important to "Big Papi" than his role in one Saturday afternoon.
Ortiz helped the Red Sox honor the victims and the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings then played in his first game since last summer, a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals capped by Daniel Nava 's three-run homer in the eighth inning.
"I try to take the positive side of things and ride with it," Ortiz said, sitting at a table in an interview room. "But I wanted to win this game badly."
The Red Sox wore white home jerseys with "Boston" on the front instead of the customary "Red Sox." The shirts will be auctioned off for a fund to support victims of the bombings.
Kansas City players and staff wore a "B Strong" patch on the front of their jerseys. Neil Diamond sang Red Sox favorite "Sweet Caroline" before the bottom of the eighth.
"I think today was different because we haven't been through what we've been through this past week," Ortiz said. "Driving around and looking around at people's faces, it was a very emotional day here just looking at those guys that were injured by those bombs going off and watching the news nearly every day, it was painful, very painful. Today I could see people opening their chest and letting it go."
The 37-year-old Ortiz injured his right Achilles tendon running the bases on July 17 and appeared just once in Boston's final 72 games, against the Royals on Aug. 24.
Ortiz was bothered by inflammation in both heels during spring training and didn't play in any exhibition games. He was 2 for 4 in his return, tying the score 1-all with a sixth-inning RBI single off James Shields .
Following the emotional pregame ceremony, the Red Sox won their sixth straight game - four since Monday's bombings at the marathon finish line.
"Knowing everything that went into the day for the city, for us to get the win, it came in a special way, special fashion," Nava said. "It made it all that more important."
Clay Buchholz (4-0) allowed eight hits in eight innings, struck out six and walked one. Andrew Bailey allowed Lorenzo Cain 's leadoff homer over the Green Monster in the ninth, his fourth hit of the game, then got his third save when Alex Gordon hit a game-ending groundout with two on.
Cain went 4 for 4 with the solo homer, but it wasn't enough to slow down the hot Red Sox.
"Just a fantastic finish to an otherwise great day," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Cain even was moved by the pregame.
"It was electric, man," Cain said of the ceremony. "To go through that and see everybody getting into it and what this city went through, just to be a part of it was amazing."
Shields gave up one run and four hits in six innings with eight strikeouts and three walks.
Buchholz extended his scoreless streak to 22 innings before Cain doubled in the fifth and scored on Jeff Francoeur 's single.
Cain doubled leading off the seventh and scored on Salvador Perez 's two-out RBI triple for a 2-1 lead. But Jonny Gomes doubled against Tim Collins starting the eighth and Dustin Pedroia walked. After Ortiz grounded into a double play, Kelvin Herrera (1-2) walked Mike Napoli on four pitches and Nava homered to right.
Herrera said it was a poorly thrown change up.
"I left in the middle," he said. "I paid the price."
NOTES: Cain is 11 for his last 16. ... Shields entered just 2-9 with a 5.86 ERA in his career in Fenway. ... Boston OF Shane Victorino left the game with lower back tightness. Farrell said he "twisted a little awkwardly trying to lay down a bunt." He'll be reevaluated (Sunday) morning. ... Boston's starters have allowed three or fewer runs in all 16 games this season.