Ryan Lavarnway to start; Lowrie to bat cleanup

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Ryan Lavarnway to start; Lowrie to bat cleanup

BALTIMORE -- The lineup for the Red Sox' critical game against the Baltimore Orioles tonight was released, and there are two surprises.

Jed Lowrie is hitting cleanup, and rookie Ryan Lavarnway is catching.

Lowrie, who is hitting .158 in the month of September, has never batted cleanup in his career. But Baltimore is starting a left-hander, Zack Britton, and Lowrie is hitting .340 with 4 home runs and 22 RBI in 106 at-bats against lefties this year, with a .901 OPS (.363 OBP, .538 slugging).

Lavarnway has played in 15 games and has hit .233 with 4 RBI for the Red Sox after being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket. He's starting because of injuries to Jason Varitek (knee) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (shoulder).

The lineup:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Jed Lowrie 3B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Ryan Lavarnway C
Darnell McDonald RF
Carl Crawford LF
Marco Scutaro SS

Manager Terry Francona said Crawford will return to the No. 2 spot in the order on Wednesday.

Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

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Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

The Boston Red Sox put up six runs in the first inning and coasted to a 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. led the way for the Red Sox with four and three RBI respectfully. Both outfielders had two-run home runs in the Sox’ big first inning.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright gave up one earned run in four innings, his ERA for the spring is now 0.68.

The Red Sox are back in action again on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m when Rick Porcello makes his final spring training start against the Minnesota Twins.

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.