Blue Jays 11, Red Sox 5

Jays swamp Red Sox

Bowden ripped in last-minute start

The grounds crew races to put down the tarp as the skies open up with a deluge of rain. The grounds crew races to put down the tarp as the skies open up with a deluge of rain. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / September 29, 2009

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At some point, a young pitcher is given an opportunity. Last night, Michael Bowden got his.

With Josh Beckett scratched because of back spasms, Red Sox manager Terry Francona turned to Bowden, who had a chance to pitch what might have been a game clinching a playoff spot.

The champagne was at the ready and a Sox win coupled with a Texas loss would have given Boston a wild-card berth. Players already had planned to stay around and watch the Rangers-Angels game from the West Coast as a prelude to a possible early-morning celebration.

But none of it fell into place. Bowden was hit hard, the Blue Jays got out to an 11-5 lead, and the game was called in the bottom of the seventh following a 1:02 rain delay, handing the Sox their fourth straight loss.

Bowden had pitched Friday against the Yankees, but this was his chance to begin carving out a spot in the future of Boston’s starting rotation.

It didn’t turn out like he wanted.

“I felt great. There was no excuse,’’ said Bowden, who allowed seven runs in three innings in taking the loss. “I wasn’t throwing pitches when I needed to. I was getting ahead of some guys, and other pitches I was leaving up in the zone. It was just kind of a snowball thing after that. I wasn’t throwing with conviction. I was given an opportunity today to start and I did everything except take advantage of it.

“I let the team down. I didn’t keep the team in the ballgame. It’s a terrible feeling.’’

The 23-year-old righthander had a 7.84 ERA in six games in relief for the Sox, but he was racked for four first-inning runs. What the Sox had hoped for from Bowden was a start more like the first one of his career, Aug. 30 of last season, when he beat Mark Buehrle and the White Sox, 8-2, a five-inning stint in which he allowed two runs on seven hits.

Did the late notice bother him?

“They could have told me at 7:05 that I was starting and that would have been enough time for me to put together a better performance than this,’’ Bowden said. “It was inexcusable. It was just bad.’’

Bowden retired leadoff hitter Jose Bautista in the first, but the Jays pounded five straight hits, beginning with Aaron Hill’s 35th homer. That was followed by a Wall single by Adam Lind, a Vernon Wells double, a single by Edwin Encarnacion, and a double by Lyle Overbay. The only salvation for Bowden was that he struck out Rod Barajas and Travis Snider to end the inning. After a 1-2-3 second, he came undone again in the third. A walk and a two-out single by Overbay set the stage for Barajas’s three-run homer. Bowden got through the third, but that was it for him after 67 pitches, none thrown very well.

“I know nights like this happen, but I just felt I had an opportunity to put this team in position to win and I couldn’t do that. It’s not a good feeling,’’ Bowden said.

It didn’t get much better when lefty Hunter Jones arrived in the fourth. Bautista reached him for a two-run homer over the Monster. While things are never completely out of reach at Fenway, the scuffling Sox never seemed to get back in rhythm.

In the early going, Kevin Youkilis was the only show. He homered in the first and third innings, his first-inning blast coming with Victor Martinez aboard after the catcher singled. Martinez’s 25-game hitting streak ended with a pinch-hitting appearance against the Yankees Sunday when Robinson Cano was charged with an error on his ground ball.

The Sox, swept by the Yankees in New York, have been trying to get their act together for the playoffs. Recent injuries to Jon Lester and Beckett haven’t exactly created a stable environment, but the Sox are usually electric at home. Yet all the voltage seemed to be coming from the Blue Jays.

Lefty Dustin Richardson made his major league debut for the Sox in the fifth, and he induced an inning-ending popup from Hill after Jones had allowed two more runs, making it an 11-3 Jays lead. Jones’s line was also forgettable: 1 2/3 innings, four runs, and five hits.

This game was so far out of reach after five that the Jays inserted Kevin Millar at third base. It really began resembling the late innings of a spring training affair in Fort Myers by the seventh, as the Sox had Joey Gathright in left, Brian Anderson in right, and George Kottaras catching.

Jays starter Scott Richmond allowed three homers but got the win, lasting six innings, allowing four runs on six hits.

David Ortiz did strike for his 28th home run, over the Jays’ bullpen in the sixth, and it’s now looking as if he’ll reach the 30-home run plateau and 100 RBIs. He has 95 now.

The Sox got a run in the seventh when Dustin Pedroia doubled in Alex Gonzalez, who walked.

With Martinez due up, the sky opened up, stopping play at 9:33 p.m., and providing a merciful end to the Sox’ night.

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