Astros speed into series finale with Diamondbacks
HOUSTON — The Astros on Saturday added outfielder Myles Straw to the big-league roster with one primary objective: to utilize his exceptional speed on the basepaths as a pinch-runner.
He may have the opportunity to continue doing that Sunday, when Houston hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of their three-game series.
Over 131 games across two levels in the minors, Straw posted 70 stolen bases and an 88.6 percent success rate. He produced 35 steals apiece for Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno.
“Speed is the most obvious thing that he adds,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “You get into the type of (pennant) race that we’re in, you get into playoff-caliber baseball, any small advantage can be a big advantage. He’s an elite baserunner. His instincts are good, he’s a good outfielder.
“His second half hasn’t gone as well as his first half offensively. We’re not going to ask a ton out of him playing-wise other than be an elite baserunner when we need it the most.”
By limiting his responsibilities, the Astros (93-55), who evened the interleague set with a 10-4 victory Saturday, believe Straw can adjust quickly.
“We’re literally asking him to take his best skill set on the bases and apply it to the major league level,” Hinch said of Straw, who pinch-ran in the seventh inning. “One of the reasons we feel comfortable with him in these last couple weeks is his instincts. And certainly, he’ll be a little bit nervous the first couple times out but we’re asking him to focus on one thing primarily, and that can ease a little bit of that stress that comes with getting into the big leagues.”
Right-hander Justin Verlander (15-9, 2.72 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros. Verlander has posted 10 double-digit strikeout games this season and is 11 strikeouts shy of matching his single-season high of 269 set in 2009 with the Detroit Tigers.
He is 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA over four career starts against Arizona, including a 3-1 loss on May 6 at Chase Field when he surrendered two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over six innings. Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 14 innings this month.
The Diamondbacks (78-71) will counter with right-hander Zack Greinke (14-9, 3.11 ERA). Greinke is 7-2 with a 2.75 ERA over his last 11 road starts and 5-4 with a 2.43 ERA in his last 11 interleague starts.
He is 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA over 10 career starts against the Astros. He did not factor into the decision May 5 when he allowed one run on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in a 4-3 victory at Chase Field.
Arizona on Saturday selected right-hander Randall Delgado from Triple-A Reno and placed right-hander Clay Buchholz on the 60-day disabled list (right elbow flexor strain). Delgado appeared in six games for the Diamondbacks this season, going 2-0 with a 5.14 ERA before being designated for assignment July 25, released six days later, and re-signed to a minor league contract Aug. 18. He posted a 0.93 ERA over five games with Reno after his signing before finishing with a 2.00 ERA in 13 contests.
“We’re all super excited to have him back,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We need an arm and he had been keeping himself in shape and talking about going to winter ball.
“We know what Randall is all about. Stuff-wise he was trending toward the Randall that we remember at the end of the minor league season so he’s going to get the ball. My expectations are that we’re going to use him in different situations, maybe not high-leverage right now, but different situations to stop momentum and get big outs for us.”
The Diamondbacks are four games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West and 3 1/2 back of Colorado for the final NL wild-card spot.