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Red Sox Vs. Royals Lineup: Sox Shuffle Lineup Again Against Lefty Francis

The Red Sox will send out perhaps the most...unique lineup of the year against the left-handed Jeff Francis Friday night.

Featuring only five regular starters (if you don't include Jed Lowrie), the Sox' starting nine tonight really drives home just how chaotic things are for Boston right now. While only Kevin Youkilis has been sent to the disabled list of late, the Sox are also down David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro. Add in the weirdness that emerges when lefties are on the mound and you get...this:

Boston Red Sox (75-48)

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Mike Aviles, SS
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  4. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  5. Jed Lowrie, 3B
  6. Ryan Lavarnway, DH
  7. Carl Crawford, LF
  8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  9. Darnell McDonald, RF

The biggest surprise might be Mike Aviles batting second, but the middle infielder has traditionally hit lefties pretty well, and has even managed to keep up his numbers in this down year he's having. It doesn't hurt that, since joining the Sox, Aviles has been hitting .300. Sure, most of those hits are singles, and he doesn't walk much, but it's something.

Dustin Pedroia will stick in the cleanup spot, which should be no surprise to anyone following the team this year, while lefty-killer Jed Lowrie bats fifth. Ryan Lavarnway has also shown the ability to absolutely destroy southpaws, so this could end up being a surprising Murderers' Row for Francis.

The Royals will make only one small change despite facing Andrew Miller instead of Josh Beckett, slotting Brayan Pena in at catcher, batting seventh.

Kansas City Royals (51-74)

  1. Alex Gordon, LF
  2. Melky Cabrera, CF
  3. Billy Butler, DH
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
  6. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
  7. Brayan Pena, C
  8. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS

Pitching Matchup: Andrew Miller (4-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jeff Francis (4-10, 5.01 ERA)

Red Sox fans may not have expected to ever see Andrew MIller make another start--in fact, they may have been rather hoping he wouldn't. But, for whatever reason, the Andrew Miller experiment continues tonight.

It's been nearly three weeks since Andrew Miller last made a start for the Red Sox, and two weeks since he had a long outing--his 71 pitches in 2.2 innings of work against the Indians are just short of being the very depressing stuff of legends. It's perhaps worth noting, though, that he left off on a reasonable note, throwing 5.2 innings of three-run ball, striking out eight men and, amazingly enough, walking just one. If it weren't for that appearance against Cleveland, Sox fans might have reason to be more interested than afraid.

Fortunately for Miller, the Royals are one of the least disciplined teams in the league, who swing at pitches outside the zone more than any AL team save the Angels and White Sox. That may help him avoid some of the walks that have so often plagued him.

For Jeff Francis, the problem is simple: how does he get righties out? He hasn't been able to so far this year, and the Red Sox have lined up quite a few guys capable of killing lefties. On the bright side, he should be able to do well against the lefties in the lineup given their pretty big personal splits, and quite frankly if we ignore the splits and look just at personnel, the Sox have some unimpressive guys and inexperienced players in their lineup tonight.