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08/23/2008 11:44 PM ET
Despite loss, PawSox end playoff drought
Mud Hens' defeat clinches first postseason berth since 2003
Michael Bowden has allowed six earned runs over 24 1/3 innings in his last four starts. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

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The Pawtucket Red Sox didn't win on Saturday night, but they still had reason to celebrate.

Matt Macri's two-run homer in the seventh inning sent the Rochester Red Wings on the way to a 4-3 win over Pawtucket, but the Red Sox clinched an International League playoff berth when Toledo lost to Richmond.

The PawSox (79-56) qualified for the Governors' Cup playoffs for the first time since 2003, when they won the North Division but lost to the Durham Bulls in the Championship Series.

Michael Bowden allowed three runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings for Pawtucket, striking out six without issuing a walk. He was in position for his first Triple-A win before Macri connected off reliever Kyle Snyder (1-4).

"I was very happy with the way I threw the ball," said Bowden, who had allowed one earned run over six innings in each of his three previous Triple-A starts. "There's always a few pitches I wish I could have back. The big thing is to learn from your mistakes."

The 21-year-old right-hander was making his seventh start being promoted from Double-A Portland, where he went 9-4 with a 2.33 ERA in 19 starts and was an Eastern League All-Star.

"I think it carried over. The more I go out there, the more comfortable I feel in my delivery," Bowden said. "It's the same game here as in Double-A. You have to get ahead of the hitters and execute your pitches."

Mariano Gomez (5-2) retired Pawtucket's Joe Thurston with two on in the seventh and won his third straight decision. Bobby Korecky pitched around a hit in a scoreless ninth to notch his 25th save, leaving him one behind Louisville's Jon Adkins, for the league lead.

Former Major Leaguer Jason Lane gave Pawtucket a quick lead with a two-run homer, his 18th, in the first and Jeff Corsaletti tripled and scored on Josh Wilson's single in the second. Corsaletti collected three hits, while Wilson was 2-for-3.

Pawtucket entered the night leading the IL in runs scored and on-base percentage, thanks to a trio of All-Stars, all of whom have seen action with Boston this season. Thurston is hitting .313 with 10 homers and 60 RBIs, Chris Carter is batting .293 with 24 homers and 78 RBIs and Jeff Bailey has a .301 average, 25 homers and 75 RBIs.

David Pauley shares the league lead with 14 victories, has won nine straight decisions and anchors a pitching staff that tops the league with a 3.73 ERA. Knuckleballer Charlie Zink is right behind him with 13 wins and ranks second in the IL with a 2.88 ERA.

The PawSox found their stride in June, reeling off eight straight wins during a 20-9 month. And although he has been with the team for only a month, Bowden sees the chemistry that has propelled the team into the playoffs.

"Everyone likes to go out and play the game every day and have fun," he said. "You can't ask for more than that, especially in late August. I've pitched in the playoffs a few times and I'm looking forward to it. It's a different atmosphere."

Pawtucket, which has not won the Governors' Cup since 1984, remained 2 1/2 games behind first-place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the North Division.

"Without a doubt we can win [the championship]," Bowden said. "We're not just happy to be in [the playoffs]. We're very capable of winning it and we all know that."

Trevor Plouffe went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and Macri also had two hits for the Red Wings (69-67), who have won four of five.

Steve Conley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.