CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox come home buoyed by victory, sobered by tragedy and inspired to do their part to help a city heal.
The Sox won their sixth straight game Thursday night, completing a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 6-3 win behind yet another virtuoso performance by a Sox starting pitcher, Jon Lester holding the Indians to four hits and both runs in seven innings.
They come home in first place in the AL East with an 11-4 record, their best start since 2006, a performance made even more impressive by the fact that they have been without their best hitter, David Ortiz.
Awaiting them upon their return to Boston will be Ortiz, who wrapped up a week-long rehab assignment in Pawtucket with a home run Thursday afternoon.
But they also will be reconnecting with a fan base badly scarred by Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the bombs exploding less than a mile from Fenway Park just after the Sox celebrated a walk-off win there the same afternoon. A reminder of that terrorist attack already has been affixed on the Green Monster in left: The team’s “B” logo, with the word “strong” underneath, an avatar that has exploded in use across cyberspace.
“I know one thing,’’ manager John Farrell said before the Sox applied another beating to former manager Terry Francona and his Indians, who were outscored, 19-8, in the series. “Just in talking to guys, I think we’re all looking very much forward to getting back home.
“I’m sure there will be some low-key tribute to those who responded first to the situation. I think, based on the example of the jersey hung in the dugout, I think we feel a sense that we can contribute to the communal spirit and hopefully create a little bit of diversion for those affected directly ... that we have a way of helping [the city] get back to some sense of normalcy.’’
Farrell was referring to the Boston visitors jersey created by equipment manager Tom McLaughlin in concert with Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the players he said directed him to write “Boston Strong” with the number 617, the city’s area code, on the back.
The Sox will follow the example of the Bruins on Wednesday night and have organist Josh Kantor provide accompaniment for a collective singing of the anthem before Friday’s game against the Kansas City Royals. The Sox will be starting a 10-game homestand, their longest of the season.
Farrell said he watched highlights of the Bruins’ ceremony, and also watched Thursday’s interfaith service attended by President Obama.
“It was great to see what took place with the anthem, and then at the end of the game last night, the tribute to the crowd by both the Bruins and Sabres,’’ Farrell said. “To see the passion come out in the singing of the national anthem, I think it strikes everyone in a positive way to see that patriotism play out at a sporting event.’’
Outside of Ortiz, second baseman Dustin Pedroia has been with the team longer than any current player; a native Californian, he and his wife, Kelli, and their two children have maintained their in-season home in the Fenway neighborhood for years.
“I don’t think it matters where you grew up or anything,’’ Pedroia said in an interview he did for ESPNBoston.com's “State of the Nation.” “I think everybody in the country and everywhere is just wishing everybody the best. It’s just horrible what happened, and everybody here, since we’re right down the street, we’re thinking about them every minute.
“It’ll be nice to get home, see everybody there, play baseball and try to put a positive thing in their minds in the worst of times.’’
The Sox scored single runs in three innings, then tacked on three more in the seventh. Mike Napoli tripled and scored on Daniel Nava’s single in the second. Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined a home run over the fence in right in the fourth, his third homer of the season. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and came around to score on singles by Shane Victorino and Pedroia.
Napoli drove in his team-leading 17th run with a base hit in the seventh, and Mike Carp, who had three extra-base hits in three trips Wednesday, hit a pinch, two-run single.