BOSTON -- This was the 100th opener at Fenway Park, but the case could be made that the Red Sox were never as desperate for a win in the previous 99 as they were in this one. And in the end, that made Friday's 9-6 victory over the Yankees one to savor.
After entering the season with World Series aspirations -- something more than a few prognosticators agreed with -- Boston had stumbled en route to an 0-6 start for the first time since 1945.
But with a packed house of Fenway fans at their back, the Red Sox broke out their bats, producing a double-digit hit attack that helped offset another subpar start by John Lackey.
The Standells' "Dirty Water," the song played after every Red Sox win at Fenway, never sounded so good to the hometown.
"I've never seen a team so happy to be 1-6," said manager Terry Francona. "That was the best we could do today. That's good. You've got to start somewhere. We did some good things today."
On a day Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski threw out the first pitch, several of Boston's current hitting stars came through with big performances.
Dustin Pedroia (3-for-5, homer, three RBIs), Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-5, two runs) and David Ortiz (2-for-4) all came through with multihit games. Pedroia sparked the Red Sox early, driving in three runs over the first two innings.
"We're 1-6," said Pedroia. "Whatever. We're just grinding, man. We don't really care what [the media] writes. We don't care what people think. We just need to go play baseball. We have a lot of great players on this team."
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who batted .077 on the road trip, came up with two hits as well, including a double that put the Red Sox ahead for good. J.D. Drew went 2-for-4 and drove in two.
The Red Sox, to a man, were happy to at last give their ravenous fan base something to cheer about.
"Every at-bat, every pitch, every inning, everything counts here," said Ortiz. "We have fans all over the planet, and they worry about things. I know that sometimes it gets out of hand the way people want to make it look like. But it is what it is, and as a player, we've got to deal with it. Trust me, there were a lot of sad faces the past six days."
Despite giving up seven hits and six runs over five innings, Lackey got the win.
"I don't set my goals that low," said Lackey. "I definitely want to do better than that. The guys swung the bats great and the bullpen was tremendous today. We won the game, so it worked out. I definitely have to keep working."
The bullpen did a fine job after Lackey's absence, silencing the Yankees over the final four innings.
Alfredo Aceves, recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game, fired a strong sixth. Bobby Jenks mowed down the Yankees in the seventh. Daniel Bard threw a perfect eight. And Jonathan Papelbon was impressive in his first save opportunity, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
"The biggest part for us is getting that so-called monkey off our back and being able to move on to the next game and start playing our game," Papelbon said.
For the second start in a row, it was clear in the early going that Lackey didn't have his best stuff. He opened the game by walking Brett Gardner. With two outs, Alex Rodriguez drew a walk. That set up Robinson Cano for a two-run double to center.
Unlike the futile road trip, the Red Sox had their best from the outset in this one. Pedroia hammered a solo homer in the bottom of the first against Phil Hughes, putting Boston within one.
From his frenetic sprint back to the dugout to his fist-pounding of whatever teammates he came across, Pedroia gave his team an early spark.
"He's definitely an emotional guy and somebody the other guys feed off of," said Lackey. "He takes things really personal and gets fired up when things are going well or bad. He came up huge for us obviously."
But the Yankees got that run right back in the top of the second, as Lackey gave up a one-out double to Curtis Granderson and a two-out double to Gardner.
After that, the Red Sox broke through with what was easily their biggest inning of the season, a five-spot that knocked out Hughes. The big hits were delivered by Pedroia (two-run double), Gonzalez (RBI single) and Ortiz (RBI single).
With a 6-3 lead at his disposal, Lackey failed to hold it. The Yankees came back with a run in each of the next three innings to tie it. The equalizer came on a towering solo blast from Rodriguez in the fifth.
Lackey hung in there just long enough to get a win.
"We needed to win a game, for sure, just to get moving in the right direction," Lackey said. "The guys really swung the bats well today. The rest of us starters were talking about outlasting the other guy. I didn't pitch well but hung in there long enough, I guess."
After what the Red Sox had been through for the first week of the season, they weren't looking for style points from Lackey or anyone else. They cared just about a letter -- the "W."
"They weren't going to go out without a win this year," said Yankees catcher Russell Martin. "It's always frustrating when a team's not doing too well. You want to keep them down while they're down."
By late Friday afternoon, the Red Sox had finally gotten back up.