Jul 13, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) pitches during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Boston Red Sox

The last time the Red Sox saw the Houston Astros in July, the Red Sox 2014 season was looking much different.  Clay Buchholz threw a shutout in Houston in the last game before the All-Star break.  It seemed the team was primed for a second half run.  Obviously, things have fizzled since then.  Despite the addition of Yoenis Cespedes, the team still struggles to score runs, though Cespedes has scored or driven in a run in every game he has appeared for Boston.  A series that looked to be a springboard into the postseason when the season started, is but a chance to evaluate what the Red Sox have going into 2015.

For a closer perspective on the Astros, I asked some questions of Greg Thurston, Senior Editor of Climbing Tal’s Hill, Fansided’s Astros website.

BSI: The recent trade deadline is always a subject for debate, even after it has passed. Is there a reason that lefty Tony Sipp was not moved at the deadline? It would seem the Angels, among others, could use a lefty.

CTH: Many people viewed Sipp as a sell high candidate. I was somewhat surprised that he wasn’t dealt and the Astros only made one deadline deal. Maybe teams weren’t willing to meet the Astros asking price for the lefty reliever.

BSI: Continuing on the trade deadline theme, did the Astros get enough for starter Jarred Cosart and Enrique Hernandez from the Marlins? Jake Marisnick was the only seemingly major-league ready talent going to the Astros.

CTH: I think it will turn out to be a good trade for Houston. Cosart and Hernandez were probably at peak value at the time of the deal. Colin Moran, who was the 6th overall pick in last year’s draft was the big score. The Astros also get a sandwich pick in next year’s draft. That could also be huge. I was at Marisnick’s Astros debut and his speed and defense are both excellent. After getting off to a slow start offensively, he’s finally starting to hit a little. Maybe he will turn out to be an everyday player in the Astros outfield. Right now it’s a little too early to tell.

BSI: The Red Sox will face the Astros’ best starter, Dallas Keuchel, in this four game series. Can you give us a scouting report on Keuchel? Will he be getting traded at next year’s deadline too?

CTH: Keuchel isn’t overpowering. His fastball usually clocks between 88 and 91. He has good command of the heater and his breaking pitches and has the highest ground ball rate in the league by a wide margin. When he keeps the ball down he is extremely successful. But if he starts leaving the ball up in the strike zone he can be hit pretty hard. I don’t expect to see him traded, especially if he continues to pitch like he has this season.

BSI: The only thing the Red Sox can realistically play for is to get out of last place. Is it important for the Astros to finish ahead of Texas, or is it only about finishing above last place?

CTH: I think both are important. Astros fans are tired of all the jokes that come with losing more than 100 games for three straight seasons. We are also tired of the superiority complex exhibited by some Rangers fans. The Rangers have a TV advertising campaign that is basically a slap in the face of the Astros. The catch phrase is “real Texas baseball”. Astros fans are already having some fun with that on Twitter. Finishing the season ahead of the Rangers in the standings would definitely be something we could keep referring back to all winter.

Thanks to Greg Thurston, for twice helping me this season with Astros series previews.  He can be found on Twitter at @astrosince1975.

Pitching matchups:
Thursday, 7:10 p.m.: Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.14) vs. Allen Webster (2.1, 4.91)

Friday 7:10 p.m: Dallas Keuchel (10-8, 3.07) vs. Clay Buchholz (5-7, 5.99)

Saturday 7:10 p.m: Brad Peacock (3-8, 5.25) Rubby De La Rosa (4-4, 3.21)

Sunday 1:35 p.m.: Collin McHugh (5-9, 3.08) vs. Joe Kelly (0-0. 2.08 for Boston)

Tags: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Yoenis Cespedes

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