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Buster Olney on M&M: Doug Fister ‘incredibly underrated’

10.16.13 at 1:45 pm ET
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ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to discuss the Red Sox’ win on Tuesday and the pitcher they’ll face in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Buster Olney

Buster Olney

The Red Sox face Doug Fister on Wednesday at Comerica Park, with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Boston has struggled this series against Tigers starters, recording 35 strikeouts and only two earned runs on six hits over 21 innings.

Fister brings less firepower than the previous three starters (Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander), as he sports just a 6.9 K/9 ratio, despite his solid 3.67 ERA.

“I think Fister is incredibly underrated,” Olney said. “But I’m sure the Red Sox are happy that it’s a different type of guy, because at the very least, unlike Sanchez, unlike Scherzer, unlike Verlander, he doesn’t go into it where you’re basically assuming you’re going to have 20 missed swings and you’re going to have a bunch of strikeouts. At least they have a better chance of putting the ball in play.”

The offensive issues don’t just exist in Boston. The Cardinals entered Tuesday’s NLDS Game 4 against the Dodgers batting just .134 in the first three games. Olney credits the domination in pitching partly to the cast of top-end starters employed by the four remaining teams, but also some of the scouting advances pitchers have gained in terms of determining the weaknesses of their opponents.

“I think a classic case of that was last night, when Miguel Cabrera comes up to the plate and John Farrell chooses to have [JunichiTazawa pitch to him because he has the information that Cabrera is struggling on pitches on the outer half  of the plate, and they just went back to it over and over and over and over again,” Olney said.

Boston offset its lack of offense with a dominant pitching performance by John Lackey to earn the 1-0 Game 3 win. Lackey threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing only four hits and zero walks while striking out eight. After Detroit rapped out a couple of base hits in the first inning, Lackey and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia changed their approach.

“They went right to the concept of pitching backwards, rather than starting off with the fastball,” Olney said. “You have to give credit to he and Saltalamacchia for changing so quickly after they saw what the Tigers were doing.”

Olney said that Detroit manager Jim Leyland toyed with the idea of switching up his lineup for Wednesday’s game, and suggested Don Kelly as a possible replacement for struggling center fielder Austin Jackson during Game 3′s postgame press conference. In 35 plate appearances this postseason, Jackson owns a .143 batting average with 18 strikeouts.

After singling in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game, designated hitter Victor Martinez left the game with a quad injury. He’s expected to return to the lineup for Wednesday’s game.

“Short of a broken leg, he’s not coming out of there,” Olney said. “In part because he and Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila are really the only three Detroit hitters who are going good at all.”

One day after Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers won their first game of the series, the Cardinals stole the edge back with a Game 4 win Tuesday to take a 3-1 series lead. Puig received criticism from St. Louis outfielder Carlos Beltran after Puig threw his hands in the air, prematurely celebrating what he thought was a home run in Game 3 that turned out to be a triple.

“I think I said this to you guys the day he was promoted that he was going to become one of the most hated players in baseball right away, because he is so demonstrative with his actions, because he does things that call attention to himself,” Olney said. “It’s too bad that the Cardinals made a big deal out of it.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Anibal Sanchez, buster olney, Doug Fister, John Farrell
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