David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez in lineup

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox have struggled of late and the last thing they need is to have two of their top sluggers out of the lineup against the surging Tampa Bay Rays.

And that's why Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz were back in the lineup for Thursday night's 9-2 loss.

Gonzalez was 0-for-3 with an RBI while Ortiz went 2-for-2.

Ortiz missed both games against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week because of a stiff lower back, and Gonzalez was removed from Wednesday's game in the top of the seventh inning due to tightness in his left calf.

"I don't think you're going to see Gonzy steal a base. I don't think you're going to see him steal a base when he's at 100 percent," manager Terry Francona said. "He feels good enough to play, which is great."

And Ortiz?

"David's still sore but he's good enough to play," the manager said. "This time of year I think we understand our responsibilities, but we'll keep an eye on him. Both of them wouldn't play if they didn't think they could be productive, or we wouldn't let them play."

Francona admitted that if the club's lead in the wild card was significantly larger than it is -- four games -- it's likely Ortiz and Gonzalez would not be playing.

"I've haven't been accused of being an Ivy Leaguer, but for me these are important games," Francona said.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.