BOSTON -- Stuck right around .500 for over a month, the Red Sox would love to create some real distance from the break-even point. One thing that would help is if they could ever start a hot streak at home.
Perhaps Tuesday night's 7-5 victory over the Marlins in the opener of a nine-game homestand will start a trend when Fenway becomes friendly again.
With the win, the Sox moved to 34-33 overall, and 15-19 at the park where they have dominated in recent years.
"It's big to get that first one out of the way," said Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who celebrated his return to the active roster by going deep. "I can't really explain it -- the way we've played at home this year is really weird. We all love playing here, obviously. This is a great place to play, and to get that first one on a long homestand is really encouraging. Hopefully we can just go out and get on a good winning streak."
The Boston bats certainly looked comfortable, taking Marlins starter Mark Buehrle deep three times. David Ortiz led the charge, belting home run No. 17 on the season. Ross and Kelly Shoppach provided the other dingers.
"I felt good," said Buehrle. "I felt like stuff was working. Just when I made a mistake, they made me pay for it. In key moments, it was either make a good pitch and they hit it or make a mistake and then pay for it. It's frustrating that we come out and score a bunch of runs today, which we've been struggling to do, and I can't keep a lead."
For the Red Sox, there was some concern in the late innings, as Dustin Pedroia had to leave the game with an apparent re-injury of his right thumb. Pedroia was diagnosed with a torn adductor muscle earlier this month, but had been back in the lineup since June 5. He had to leave Tuesday's game after hitting a foul popout to first in the bottom of the seventh. Nick Punto replaced him in the top of the eighth.
Pedroia expressed hope to the training staff that he was simply jammed, and that it was not a significant setback.
"I saw him take that swing and I just went straight to the cage to get my legs loose and throw the ball," said Punto. "I saw him swing and him shake his hand. He's one of the toughest athletes I've ever met. If he can play, he'll be out there tomorrow."
Clay Buchholz, who had been dominant in his previous four starts, never looked totally in rhythm in this one. The righty gave up nine hits and five runs over six innings, walking one and striking out three. But he still got the win, running his record to 8-2.
"Well, you know, it's interesting that Clay didn't have his great stuff tonight, and the offense seemed to sense it, and they were going to do what they had to do to get us enough runs," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "David started it off with the big two-run homer; it's great to have Cody back, getting a homer, and Kelly Shoppach picked another pitch on 3-1 and gave us two runs with one swing."
Logan Morrison did just about all the significant damage for the Marlins, driving in five runs.
"You tip your cap to him," Buchholz said. "He was locked in tonight. I think he's been locked in since we left their place."
After the homer by Ross in the fourth, the Sox had a 5-3 lead.
But Buchholz ran into trouble in the fifth. And again it was Morrison who tormented him. With two on and two outs, Morrison laced one to center that landed near the base of the wall in center for a game-tying, two-run double. It looked like center fielder Ryan Kalish, playing his first game at Fenway since 2010, misjudged it, playing for the carom instead or running all the way back to try to make the catch.
"You know what, we talked about it with two outs," said Kalish. "I probably should have let it go to the wall first. If there were no outs, I could have played it different, but I haven't been in this park in a while, and, you know, I'm going to make an adjustment."
The Red Sox shook it right off, though, as Mike Aviles led off the bottom of the fifth with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Pedroia and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez.
There was some insurance in the sixth, as Kevin Youkilis led off with a double and scored on a double by Will Middlebrooks, making it a 7-5 game.
With Matt Albers pitching for Boston in the seventh, Kalish again had a snafu in center, dropping a deep fly ball from Jose Reyes, which turned into a three-base error.
"I just missed it," said Kalish. "Obviously I can smile about it now, but at the time, I wasn't. I just dropped it. There's no excuse for that, and it won't happen again. It was just one of those things that, you drop a ball. I really can't ever remember dropping a ball like that in my life. It's just really funny that it happened in the big leagues."
But even with nobody out, Albers and lefty Andrew Miller dug down and got out of the jam, stranding Reyes at third.
And Kalish made amends in the eighth, making a fine running catch in right-center off Gaby Sanchez to halt a Miami rally.
"I had a ton of support from the guys, Cody especially, having so much experience," said Kalish. "When they made that pitching change right after, he just kind of talked to me and calmed me down, and that really helped me out to get my confidence back."
By the end of the night, the Red Sox had gotten the homestand off to a good start, even if it wasn't easy.
"We are out there battling every day, our pitchers are pitching well, our bullpen is pitching well, it's just a matter of all of us being in synch at the same time," said Aviles. "Our offense wasn't doing what it was doing earlier on, and that's just how things are, that's how baseball is -- round ball, round bat -- it's just a matter of time before everything plays out together and we go on a roll."