ST. PETERSBURG -- With his lineup settling into a nice groove over the past two games, Red Sox manager Terry Francona made one modification for Sunday night's Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, starting Alex Cora at shortstop in place of rookie Jed Lowrie.
It was Cora's second start of the ALCS, and both have come with right-hander Matt Garza starting for the Rays. The left-handed-hitting veteran went 1-for-4 in Game 3, a 9-1 loss in which Garza got the victory. Lowrie has had a rough ALCS, going 2-for-17. One of those hits, however, was a double off the wall in right field that helped set up Boston's furious comeback from 7-0 down in Game 5.
"We've done this pretty much the whole way through the playoffs," said Francona. "When we get the hard-throwing right-hander, we'll go with AC. This way, it gives us another option, too, because you know at some point they're going to probably want to go to [J.P.] Howell, and it gives us a chance to maybe do something."
Lowrie, a switch-hitter, is far more productive from the right side.
Sox Game 7 lineup
1. Coco Crisp
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. David Ortiz
4. Kevin Youkilis
5. J.D. Drew
6. Jason Bay
7. Mark Kotsay
8. Jason Varitek
9. Alex Cora
For the third straight game, Coco Crisp was Boston's leadoff hitter. The switch-hitter, who supplanted Jacoby Ellsbury in center field beginning with Game 4, is hitting .500 (8-for-16) in the series.
Though Ellsbury's had good success against Garza in his career (6-for-13), Francona gave no thought to making a switch in center field.
"Not really," Francona said. "I mean, I know what they are. It would be hard to take Coco out right now. He's doing a pretty good job."
Though Ellsbury is in an 0-for-20 drought, Francona hasn't forgotten about the speedy left-handed hitter.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Jacoby has something to say about the outcome of tonight's game," Francona said. "He's a pretty mature young guy. I'm sure he wants to play. I would, too. We're just doing what we think is right."
Jason Varitek, who busted out of an 0-for-14 ALCS drought with a go-ahead home run in the Game 6 victory, moved from ninth to eighth in the batting order. Cora batted ninth.
Francona posted a different lineup for all seven games in this series.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.