BOSTON — Terry Francona returned – again – to Fenway Park, where his good friend, John Farrell, is managing a mess. Personally, Francona may feel for his buddy. But not on the field.

“For the next four days I hope they lose,” Francona said.

Maybe for the next three days, since Boston beat Cleveland 5-2 on Thursday night with a rare offensive outbreak. The Red Sox, coming off a 2-7 road trip, improved to 30-36. The Indians dropped to 33-34.

When Francona managed the Red Sox, he often used the phrase, “I’m not going to run away from him” when referring to a struggling player. Francona backed his players.

Farrell, Francona’s pitching coach here for four years, is following the same philosophy. His team, the core of which won a World Series in 2013, is not hitting with any consistency. Farrell is trying to subtly encourage the troops.

“We’ve had this conversation with individual players and staff,” he said. “We can’t abandon the strengths of this team or what these individual players have shown in the past, and that is put up relentless at-bats, get on base.

“Overall I still think we do a good job of getting on base.”

Boston ranks seventh in the American League in on-base percentage and second among East Division teams.

But in runs, Boston ranks 14th of 15 teams. Tampa Bay has returned to its lowly status and is 15th.

Maybe Boston should reach out to Francona again?

Just kidding. There is no chance of Francona being in a Red Sox uniform again under their current ownership. Since his bitter departure after the 2011 season, Francona has not spoken to the owners, John Henry and Tom Werner, “and I don’t know if I ever will,” Francona told Boston radio station WEEI earlier Thursday.

But even Francona couldn’t get these Red Sox on a roll.

The answer lies within.

“I firmly believe this will turn,” Farrell said. “There’s confidence in this group of players to … put together a streak of wins that gets us back in the mix.”

When the 2004 Red Sox needed to get back in the mix, Francona said Boston solidified its defense – goodbye Nomar Garciaparra and hello Orlando Cabrera – and then “used the offense to our advantage.”

There are a couple differences when comparing 2004 with 2014. The 2004 Red Sox trailed the Yankees by 8½ games on July 1 but were only two games behind in the wild-card race. Plus, that ’04 team could hit, eventually scoring a major league-best 949 runs.

These Red Sox began Thursday eight games behind first-place Toronto and five behind in the wild card, behind almost every AL team.

And as we’ve mentioned, these Red Sox aren’t scoring.

“We need every guy in our lineup,” Farrell said, answering a question about David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia picking up the pace.

“It’s not just focused on those two guys. We need everyone to pass the baton and work as a group. When we’ve done that, we’ve been a very good offensive team.”

Meanwhile, infielder Will Middlebrooks and pitcher Clay Buchholz will make rehab appearances Friday with Pawtucket. Outfielder Shane Victorino could join them Saturday.

“We’re starting to get some guys on the mend,” Farrell said.

Maybe that will help. A healthy Victorino can invigorate a lineup. And Middlebrooks can bring power if – that’s capital-I, capital-F – he figures out his approach at the plate.

Farrell said he trusts his players to turn this around. He sounds a lot like Francona that way.

The two friends won’t always oppose each other like this weekend. Farrell named Francona one of the American League coaches for the All-Star Game next month.

Farrell was asked if he and Francona have talked about the All-Stars. Farrell almost laughed.

“We’ve got a number of things that we’re dealing with in-house before turning our attention to that,” he said. “We have to get our own house in order, to get back on track.”

Thursday was a good first step back.