BOSTON -- Baseball was back. Heck, Boston was back.
On an emotionally-charged Saturday afternoon, the city's first sports event since an area-wide lockdown and the capture of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect unfolded as a crowd of 35,152 strived to regain normalcy at Fenway Park. Early morning rain dissolved into bright sunshine to further brighten the scene.
The Red Sox, symbolically wearing "BOSTON" on their chests instead of the nickname, added to the city's joy by dealing the Royals, wearing a "B Strong" patch on their jerseys to support the city, a 4-3 loss. Red Sox Nation had reason to cheer and forget.
It was a difficult loss for the Royals, but they found the pregame ceremonies meaningful.
"It was special, it was cool," left fielder Alex Gordon said. "I almost started crying at some of the points, so it was a special moment and we were happy to be a part of it."
"Today was a very emotional day, right out of the gates," starter James Shields said. "Warming up was pretty emotional and it was a tough day, and unfortunately we got the loss."
Daniel Nava's three-run homer off reliever Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning wiped out a 2-1 Kansas City lead.
Boston right fielder Shane Victorino developed some lower back tightness at just the right time, it seems. Jonny Gomes had to pinch-hit for him to lead off the eighth against Tim Collins, and he belted a double off the Green Monster. Collins walked Dustin Pedroia and got David Ortiz, just back in the Red Sox lineup, to roll into a double play.
"You get first and second with Big Papi and you feel like you might have escaped it with the double play," Jeff Francoeur said, "but Nava had a big hit for them."
Did he ever. Herrera, a right-hander, took over for lefty Collins, but he walked right-handed-hitting Mike Napoli on four pitches.
"I didn't do my job today. That's all," Herrera said glumly.
Up came the switch-hitting Nava, swinging left-handed. Herrera's 1-1 pitch soared into the right-field Boston bullpen for a 4-2 Red Sox lead.
"A changeup I just left in the middle. I missed the location and I paid the price," Herrera said.
Fenway Park, quite naturally, became a 101-year-old house of unbridled happiness.
"Whether it was me or anyone coming through," Nava said, "it was something that we all wanted to do, and hey, we got it and we got it in a special way, special fashion, so it makes it that much more exciting."
Lorenzo Cain fought back in the ninth, as he belted a home run to left field -- his fourth hit of the game -- to cut the deficit to one against closer Andrew Bailey.
The Royals also got a single from Francoeur and a two-out walk to pinch-hitter George Kottaras, in his first Royals appearance, against Bailey. But Bailey got Gordon to ground out on a 3-2 pitch, ending the game.
"We had a lot of chances to get ahead. I can speak for the offense. We just didn't come through when we had chances, me included." Gordon said. "I had a pitch to hit, I just missed it, that's all."
Cain scored all three Royals runs and three of his hits came off Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, who went eight innings to improve his record to 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA.
"He was very effective today," Cain said. "I was able to get some good pitches and I was able to stay on him all day. At the end of the day, we didn't get the win, so it's kind of tough to enjoy it."
Cain doubled down the left-field line in both the fifth and seventh innings. In the fifth, Francoeur's single got him home. In the seventh, Salvador Perez dropped a ball down the right-field line that scooted by the Pesky Pole and into the corner for an RBI triple. It was just the third career triple for the plodding Perez.
Perez also had a defensive pearl, picking off Nava at second base in the seventh inning to help blunt a Red Sox threat. It was the ninth pickoff of Perez's career, already the most ever by a Kansas City catcher.
The Royals had a chance to boost their 2-1 lead in the eighth when Alcides Escobar rapped a one-out single, and as Billy Butler walked on a 3-2 pitch, he took off for second base. Although the walk gave Escobar second, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw sailed into center and Escobar reached third on the unnecessary error. But Eric Hosmer bounced into a double play to end the inning with the sizzling Cain on deck.
Cain's third career four-hit game gave him a .486 (18-for-37) average in his last 10 games.
"He's as hot as anybody in the league right now, swinging the bat as good as anybody." manager Ned Yost said.
Shields yielded the mound after six innings and 106 pitches. He had tried to concentrate on warming up during the pregame ceremonies but found it difficult.
"You're just looking at the crowd and everyone is just clapping and crying. It was an emotional day. Thank God that everything has turned out the way it turned out," Shields said. "But it was a tough day today."
Shields had trouble finding his rhythm, but he didn't give up a hit until Ortiz singled in the fourth inning and not a run until Ortiz singled home Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth.
"Once the game started, it was fine," Shields said. "The crowd was great today. It was just one of those special days that you're not ever really going to forget as a player. Your hearts go out to all the families and all the police officers that helped, so hopefully we can get over this and keep going."
Cain, too, was touched by the pregame ceremonies.
"It was electric, man, just to go through that and see everybody getting into it and what this city went through," Cain said. "Just to be a part of it was amazing."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.