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Cora gets Game 7 call at shortstop

Cora gets Game 7 call over Lowrie

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.

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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."

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Lowrie, a switch-hitter, is far more productive from the right side.

Sox Game 7 lineup
1. Coco CrispCF
2. Dustin Pedroia2B
3. David OrtizDH
4. Kevin Youkilis3B
5. J.D. DrewRF
6. Jason BayLF
7. Mark Kotsay1B
8. Jason Varitek C
9. Alex CoraSS

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.

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