Wednesday September 28, 2011 | 06:11 AM

Ryan Lavarnway got his first start as a catcher Tuesday night: Two home runs. Four RBI (and almost three more before a sensational catch by Nick Markakis).

Solid game defensively, throwing out a base-stealer and later making a huge play on a dribbler down the first base line.

Lavarnway began the season in Portland. Other players have made the jump from Double-A to the majors in one year. But to make such a splash in the majors at such a key time brings to mind memories of Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007.

The potential was always there. We saw it in 2010 when he first arrived at Hadlock Field. (Check out this Lavarnway feature).

As for another former Sea Dogs standout ... which Jon Lester will show up tonight.

Before his last three starts, Lester was 15-6 with a 2.93 ERA.

He is now 15-9 (3.49), having allowed 16 runs in his last 13 2/3 innings.

Lester lasted only 2 2/3 innings last time out, so it is hoped that going on only three days' rest won't be a problem.

What could be a problem is Orioles right-hander Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85). He has been up and down. Although winless in his last six starts, he went 8 innings his last time out against Detroit (6 H, 3 ER).

In St. Petersburg, the Rays are throwing strong lefty David Price against a committee of New York pitchers (the Yankees have not named a starter).

If Boston and Tampa Bay finished tied, they will meet Thursday in St. Petersburg for a one-game playoff.

Another, less important race going on is for the No. 2 seed. Detroit is one game behind Texas. If the teams finished tied, the Tigers have the tiebreaker.

The standings, one last time:

Wild Card
Boston 90-71
Tampa Bay 90-71

Boston's and Tampa Bay's magic number to clinch the wild card: 2.

Remaining Games:
Boston (Jon Lester) at Baltimore (Alfredo Simon)
New York (TBD) at Tampa Bay (David Price)

The playoff seeds at the moment:
1. New York 97-64
2. Texas 95-66
3. Detroit 94-67
4. Boston or Tampa Bay (wild card)

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

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