Buster Olney on M&M: I'd take Red Sox over Tigers to win AL

September 11, 2013 - 9:47 am

ESPN'€™s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to discuss the first-place Red Sox and the American League playoff picture. After Tuesday night'€™s 2-0 win over the Rays, backed by the return of Clay Buchholz after a three-month stint on the disabled list, Boston pushed its AL East lead to a season-high 8½ games. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Red Sox have a 100 percent chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2009. '€œIt'€™s really been amazing, especially how the pitching staff has progressed,'€ Olney said. '€œIf you would have thought back six months ago and said they'€™re going to lose Joel Hanrahan, they'€™re going to lose Andrew Bailey, [Junichi] Tazawa'€™s not going to be as effective at times as they had hoped, and oh yeah, Koji Uehara is going to turn into Mariana Rivera, you would have said no way. But you'€™re right, they have a chance to go to the World Series.'€ Olney discussed the amazing turnaround Boston has experienced from a 69-93 team last year that had a fire sale toward the end of the season to a World Series contender this year. '€œI really think that last year framed 2013 for them in a really good way,'€ Olney said. '€œI think they'€™re excited to get to work, from John Lackey dropping the weight, to Jon Lester probably feeling like he had something to prove, John Farrell probably happy to leave a situation that had increasingly become dysfunctional in Toronto.'€ The hosts put Olney on the spot, asking if he would take the Red Sox or the Tigers to win the pennant. "This is a coin flip, you could make a strong case for either side," Olney said. "I don'€™t think there'€™s a right answer for that question. But right now, based on the way they'€™re throwing and the confidence that Lester has and that big game that he pitched against Detroit, I'€™d take the Red Sox." Olney also discussed the increasingly intriguing race for the two wild card spots. The Rangers and Rays currently lead, while Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and Kansas City all remain within three games of the Rays for the second wild card spot. Olney said he'€™s like what he'€™s seen from the Indians (1½ games back) and Royals (three games back) recently. '€œI think Cleveland or Kansas City are teams we should not lose site of,'€ Olney said. Cleveland has the luxury of playing a much easier schedule than the Rays. After Wednesday'€™s rubber match with the Royals, the Indians play just three of their final 17 games against teams over .500. Tampa Bay on the other hand, plays 13 of its last 19 games against teams over .500. '€œI think that Tampa is a better team than Cleveland is, but Tampa Bay's got to go through all of these American League East teams, and on the other hand Cleveland plays these week teams,'€ Olney said. Olney also credited Yankees manager Joe Girardi for keeping an overmatched team, caught up in the middle of an ugly saga involving Alex Rodriguez, only 1½ games back of the Rays. "Even at the toughest times this year, I thought Joe did a great job of saying, 'You know what, this is who I've got. I've got Chris Stewart, I've got Jayson Nix, I've got a lot of guys who shouldn't be everyday players, but they're trying, and that's all I can do,' " Olney said.