Astros: Previewing the Red Sox series with Buster Olney

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Jun 14, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) celebrates with catcher Brian McCann (16) after scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) celebrates with catcher Brian McCann (16) after scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Interview with Buster Olney.

Jun 14, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (6) celebrates with shortstop Carlos Correa (1) after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick (6) celebrates with shortstop Carlos Correa (1) after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The two teams seem to be somewhat comparable, but I wanted to talk with ESPN’s Buster Olney about the Stros vs. Sox matchup this weekend.

CTH: Which team has the most staying power?

Olney: The Astros are the ones you have to pick because of the lead in the division and how tough the AL East is. The Red Sox have a much bigger challenge, the Yankees are pretty good and add at the deadline. Toronto will play better. I wonder if at some point the Rangers will waive the white flag and the Angels are not going to go in big. With that in mind, I think the Astros would the most dangerous come October.

CTH: Have the Red Sox adjusted to life without David Ortiz yet?

Olney: I think they have to a point, you will never replace what he was last year, one of the best hitters in baseball. Even if he came back, would he still have been that player? Looking forward, they need to add some left-handed hitters. If the Royals ever get to a point to where they are ready to sell, the Red Sox could go after Mike Moustakas. They miss his power. You can see that with them being last in the AL in homers.

CTH: What do the Astros need to do at the trade deadline?

Olney: Starting pitching, starting pitching, and starting pitching. They are in an interesting position. It reminds me of where the Cubs were last year. Everyone knew by mid-June that the Cubs would make the playoffs. The Cubs decided to spend heavily on a guy that they thought would help them win the World Series in Aroldis Chapman. The only difference is that there are more pitchers potentially on the market this year.

If you are the Astros, you think that you are most likely to be in the postseason. So how heavily do you invest in a starting pitcher? The only difference is that there are more pitchers potentially on the market this year. So no doubt about it, the Astros will go after someone like Sonny Gray, less likely Gerrit Cole, or maybe a rental or two who will be free agents. Someone like Jason Vargas of the Royals.

I think they will try to get one or two guys. I don’t think teams are obligated to tell us everything about injuries, like a Dallas Keuchel situation going on right now. Now I also reserve the right to wonder if there is something more than what they are telling us. By telling us the symptoms, I have to wonder what the source of the problems are.

CTH: Tell us a little more about Sonny Gray.

Olney: We have seen Houston and Oakland matchup before with a trade and Billy Beane is one of the few GM’s who would consider a trade of significance to trade within the division. I think Oakland would be motivated to move him today while the Pirates may wait a while.

This past offseason, the Astros, and White Sox talked about Jose Quintana. However, within the Astros organization, some questions have been raised this year with him not pitching well. I spoke to Sonny (Gray) the other day, and he looks really good. His fastball velocity is up, and he’s using a slider this year, and he’s got his curveball back. He’s closer to being what he was a few years ago and remember, he has postseason experience. (He talked more about Quintana that I will include later)

CTH: What about Aoki, will he be on the Astros roster all year?

Olney: It depends on injuries and trades. How does he fit on this roster? When you see the potential of what Derek Fisher can do if he’s not in one of these trades they make. You have to wonder if they would prefer the bat with the thump in it versus a guy who puts the ball in play.

They also have to think of a postseason roster, and Aoki off the bench versus a National League is pretty attractive.

CTH: With the teams as they are, which team would you have winning in a potential ALDS?

Olney: It will depend on Keuchel for me. What would Keuchel and McCullers status at the time? I think the Astros can go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox pitchers assuming those guys are okay. If not, it becomes a different situation. I think Chris Sale in the playoffs will be amazing. He’s a man on a mission this year. After Sale, the Red Sox have big questions about their rotation. We don’t know how David Price’s command will be at the time.

CTH: What do you think of the Astros bullpen?

Olney: That’s why I see the Astros going out to get a guy to go deeper into games to protect this bullpen for the playoffs. Extra innings were thrown by relievers in June and July always seemingly manifests itself in October. With the current rotation, Keuchel and McCullers are the guys to go seven innings plus in their starts. While the rest of them, they tell them to throw as hard as you can for five innings. That’s what they told Morton to do at the beginning of the year and how they feel about Musgrove too.

CTH: Which matchup are you most intrigued about for this weekend’s series?

Olney: After Pomeranz start last Sunday night I’m glad we don’t have him again this week, he takes so much time in between pitches. The most interesting matchup is Musgrove versus Price, not because it’s the Sunday Night Baseball game of the week. Because of the uncertainty surrounding Price. He has the biggest contract of any pitcher in history in terms of total value of it.

Year 2 and there are already questions about him. He’s been really mediocre this year, and I’m curious to see how he pitches and be better. The Red Sox success will depend on if Price pitches better. With their offense, they can win, but they need better production from Price.

CTH: Can the Astros offense defeat the three pitchers they will face this weekend?

Olney: Oh yeah, they have the most dynamic and athletic offense that is so well balanced. Give credit to Jeff (Luhnow) for targeting the players he did. To go out and add Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, even if Beltran is not hitting as they expected. The impact that he has had on the other players is all they talk about.

When the Astros got off to such a great start, the offense wasn’t clicking as well as they hoped, but Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer started to heat up later.

CTH: Thanks for taking the time Buster to talk to me.

Thanks to Buster Olney and the ESPN staff who reached out to me to set up this interview. Being able to talk to a guy of his stature was nerve-wracking but fun.

Next: Derek Fisher makes an early case to stay with the Astros.

Don’t forget to watch to watch the Astros play the Red Sox on Sunday on ESPN. Listen to Dan Shulman with analysts Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone. Olney will be reporting from the sidelines. This will be a good series to watch between two of the top all-around teams in baseball.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference and ESPN’s team stats page***

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