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Sox's playoff plans stalled by Jays

Sox's playoff plans stalled by Jays

BOSTON -- A mini-rut, compounded by some late-season nagging injuries, has delayed the Red Sox from clinching a postseason berth that has felt inevitable for a couple of weeks. Ace Josh Beckett was scratched from Monday night's start with mild back spasms, giving prospect Michael Bowden a chance to step up.

It didn't happen, as Bowden, making his second career start, was pounded for seven hits and seven runs over three innings en route to a rain-shortened 11-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Though Bowden had pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief three days prior and didn't find out until earlier in the day on Monday that he was starting, he didn't make any excuses.

"They could have told me at 7:05 [p.m. ET], and I should have been able to put forth a better effort. I feel like I let the team down," Bowden said. "I didn't keep the team in the game. I went out there, threw a lot of pitches and was up in the zone and got hit and set a bad tempo for the game."

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Another September callup, left-hander Hunter Jones, came on for Bowden and didn't fare well either, getting belted around for five hits and four runs over 1 2/3 innings.

"Early on, the fastball was pretty much the only thing [Bowden] was commanding," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He elevated some balls, and they hit them pretty good. Second inning, he started getting his breaking ball over, and then he made another couple of mistakes before we could get him out of there. Hunter comes in and leaves the fastball up and we're kind of fighting up hill."

Since the Rangers were shut out by the Angels, 11-0, on Monday night in Anaheim, the Red Sox have a magic number of one, meaning that a win over the Jays on Tuesday would clinch their sixth postseason berth in the past seven years.

"We tried to get this game tonight," said Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez. "We have to come out tomorrow and play hard. We have six games left, and we need to finish strong going into the playoffs. More important for us is just to finish the season playing well going into the playoffs. Hopefully our fans can get that celebration [Tuesday]."

Bowden just wishes he could have made a more competitive effort on Monday.

"He was pitching behind in the count, and when he had to throw strikes, they were just waiting for that pitch and they weren't missing at all," said Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez. "Like I always say, it's pretty tough when you face a batter and fall behind in the count, especially in the big leagues."

During an otherwise lost night, the Red Sox did get some offensive contributions. Most noteworthy was a two-homer game from Kevin Youkilis, who entered the contest in a 6-for-39 slump.

"He swung the bat great," said Francona. "That was terrific. It looked like we were trying to swing ourselves back into it, but that's a tough way to play."

The Red Sox were in the midst of a seventh-inning rally -- two on and nobody out with George Kottaras at the plate -- when play was halted for good.

Before the rain, David Ortiz bashed his 28th homer and bumped his RBI total to 95, belting one over the wall in center in the sixth.

Aside from not having Beckett, the Red Sox also rested third baseman Mike Lowell, who had shots of Synvisc and cortisone injected into his surgically repaired right hip before the game. Left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima also rested for the fourth game in a row with an ailing right side.

More than anything, Francona is using the final portion of the regular season to, in his words, "get our house in order."

"Guys need [rest] this time of year," Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury said. "No one is feeling 100 percent. I think that's the main thing is to get everyone rested and ready for the postseason."

After going on a 27-11 tear from Aug. 10-Sept. 20, the Red Sox have lost four in a row and six of their past eight.

"We're not worried at all," said Ellsbury. "We're not pressing or anything like that. The main thing is to hopefully get everyone healthy and everyone just clicking at the right time. Right now is not the postseason, so there's no pressure on us right now."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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