BOSTON -- It was already a Fenway day that Red Sox fans won't soon forget, filled with emotion and civic pride.
But with four outs remaining, Boston -- as the home jerseys uniquely stated on the front for Saturday's game -- needed a big hit to make it a winning day.
And Daniel Nava provided it, clocking a three-run homer into the Boston bullpen, fueling a 4-3 victory by the Red Sox, who have won seven in a row.
"Just a fantastic finish to a great day, from the tribute before the game, the many that were acknowledged, to the way we went out and played," said manager John Farrell. "We felt the fans' presence, there's no doubt. I'm sure everyone can probably pinpoint to a different moment inside today as being a highlight. I just think the entire atmosphere, the setting, coming off of what this city's coming off of, today was very well done."
And Nava created the indelible baseball highlight.
When the switch-hitter stepped to the plate against Kelvin Herrera with two outs in the eighth, the Red Sox were down 2-1.
But Nava absolutely unloaded, giving the Fenway fans one more reason to roar.
"I didn't do my job today, that's all," Herrera said. "A changeup, I just left in the middle. I missed the location and I paid the price."
It was sweet redemption for Nava, who was picked off at second in the seventh when Boston was trying to rally.
"I was stepping in the box just trying to put the baserunning mistake behind me and move on," Nava said. "And understanding the importance of today's game, I was pretty frustrated myself, because that was a chance [in the seventh] to get things going. For that to happen, I wasn't trying to do it. Thank God it worked out the way it did, because I didn't plan that."
When Nava connected with the 1-1 changeup, he yelled "stretch," hoping the ball would have enough distance to give the Red Sox and their fans what they needed.
"Fortunately it got out," Nava said. "Knowing everything that went into today and the importance, not just for the city, but each person that was impacted, it's something that for us to get the win, whether it was me or anyone coming through, it was something that we all wanted to do. We got it and we got it in a special way, special fashion, so it makes it that much more exciting."
New Yorkers can relate to the moment. In the first game played in New York after 9/11, Mike Piazza came through with a game-winning blast that sent Shea Stadium to the highest of decibel levels.
This was the first home game for the Red Sox since the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 176 others.
"I wasn't running the bases thinking everything I mentioned before. I was thinking more about the significance of us coming back in the game, just how much adrenaline you got," Nava said. "Now after that, I started thinking about it. Hitting a home run or winning a game is obviously nice, but the people that lost their lives and stuff like that, a home run doesn't bring the people that they lost back, but I think maybe getting a win at least maybe takes their mind off it for a split second or two. And if we can do that, it's something we try to do."
After a stirring pregame tribute, capped with David Ortiz reminding everyone that "This is our … city", the Red Sox turned their attention to baseball.
It was another terrific performance by Clay Buchholz, who went eight innings while scattering eight hits but just two runs. The righty walked one and struck out six.
"Pretty emotional," Buchholz said. "It's fun to be a part of. At times, it's tough to restrain yourself, getting into everything that was going on. It was awesome that the game could finish that way. I don't think you could have written it any better."
Buchholz and James Shields engaged in just the type of duel you'd expect between two of the best right-handers in the American League.
The Royals went in front first in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Jeff Francoeur. That rally was started by a double from Lorenzo Cain, who had a monster day, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and a homer.
After being completely stifled by Shields through the first five, the Sox put something together in the sixth.
"No wonder we couldn't hit early," said catcher David Ross. "I don't think anyone stopped crying until the fifth inning."
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the sixth-inning rally with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Shane Victorino. Ellsbury took third on a groundout by Dustin Pedroia. Up stepped David Ortiz, who belted an RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 1.
It was just the third at-bat of the season for Ortiz, who spent the previous eight months working his way back from right Achilles' heel issues.
"I have been in a lot of great moments here in Boston and a lot of emotional situations, but I think today was different, because we haven't been through what we had this past week," Ortiz said. "And driving around and looking around and just looking at people's faces, it was a very emotional day here. Just looking at those guys that were injured by this bomb going off and watching the news pretty much every day about the whole situation, it's painful. It's painful."
But perhaps baseball can be therapeutic.
The Royals moved right back in front in the seventh. Again, it was Cain who started things off with a double. With two outs, Salvador Perez laced one to right that got past Victorino and into the corner for an RBI triple.
Victorino later left the game with lower back tightness.
The seventh seemed liked the inning the Sox would move back in front. Nava led off the inning getting hit by a pitch and Will Middlebrooks followed with a single. But as Stephen Drew missed a bunt attempt, Nava strayed too far off the base and got picked off. He was peeved.
"It was uncalled for," Nava said. "You can't let that happen. I knew they were going to keep me close. Knowing that, I was thinking, 'I've got to get a pretty good jump.' It shouldn't have happened. That's the long and short of it."
In the end, however, Nava made things right for a crowd of 35,152 that buzzed with support throughout the day.
"It was a complete emotional roller coaster, to where we have a moment of silence for the people that aren't here to a couple seconds later applauding the heroes," said Jonny Gomes, who helped set up Nava's homer with a pinch-hit double. "And then a baseball game breaks out."