Myles Straw's head-turning speed is turning into a real postseason weapon for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
The Houston Astros' work on the base paths has been an underrated aspect of their 2-0 series lead. Here, George Springer gets there. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
When the Cleveland Indians have bobbled the ball in the outfield, the Astros have made them pay. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Andrew Miller has not been the postseason weapon the Cleveland Indians expected. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
The Astros certainly look like the loosest and most confident team in the playoffs. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Astros lifeline Jose Altuve came up limping on a dash, but he played on. It's October. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Alex Bregman beat the tag to score the go-ahead run from first base in the sixth and then later homered. Again. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Alex Bregman always goes all out for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
With Myles Straw tormenting the Oakland A’s to the tune of three steals, using his speed to push the Houston Astros to 20 games over .500, we look back on this long shot’s incredible journey which first gained notice in last October’s playoffs.
It’s a near breathtaking moment, buried within the Houston Astros’ overall brilliance. There is Myles Straw taking off for second base and almost arriving before stunned Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes has even caught Brad Hand’s pitch.
That is how good Straw’s jump is. That is how fast the Astros’ secret postseason weapon is.
It goes down on the scorecard as a simple steal of second base. But anyone who saw it, knows it’s more than that. It’s a display of pure speed, an electric jolt in a sport that often finds itself reduced to strikeouts and home runs these days.
It’s what Myles Straw does. This fresh-faced, 23-year-old is the pinch runner extraordinaire, the unbelievable luxury that the Astros’ ultra-deep roster gives them.
“Yeah, I got a good jump,” Straw tells PaperCity. “It’s about studying the pitchers and getting used to the kind of pitches they throw. I know I’m here for one reason and I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Straw’s 6.25 60-yard dash time makes him a freak on the basepaths, the type of statistical outlier that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow loves. By comparison, the immortal Mike Trout clocked a 6.30 60-yard time. In high school, Straw ran a 4.4 40-yard dash. That would beat many of even the NFL’s elite receivers.
In other words, there’s speed — and then there’s Myles Straw speed.
“I’ve always been pretty fast,” he says.
Which doesn’t mean he cannot go unnoticed. As we talk in the Astros clubhouse after Game 2, Straw is struggling to sneak behind the media horde around reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve to grab the clothes out of his locker.
The rookie finds himself in the locker right between Altuve and star shortstop Carlos Correa, which is sort of like being a minnow in a sea of whales. Straw is not complaining though. He simply gets dressed against the side entrance of the shower.
“It’s unbelievable to be in this atmosphere, to get a chance to do something in these games, to just be a little part of this team,” he says.
Some dressing gymnastics is a small price to pay for that.
Speed in Wait
When Myles Straw is wearing a button up shirt and gray dress pants — his outfit for the Saturday night plane ride to Cleveland — he could pass for a young energy company worker. This isn’t the type of guy who gets recognized in his everyday life. This is the ultimate role player.
It’s highly unlikely that Straw will ever get even a single at-bat during the Astros’ October repeat drive. He’ll spend only a minimum amount of time playing in the outfield too. But he’ll get the chance to run. In many ways, Straw looks like Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s new favorite toy.
Hinch inserted Hinch as a pinch runner in each of the Astros’ first two playoff games — and Straw’s already delivering. He scored from second on a single in the eighth inning of Houston’s 7-2 Game 1 romp, ripped off that breathtaking steal in the eighth inning of a 3-1 Game 2.
The steal does not end up meaning anything in the game, but it could mean everything in the future as Hinch’s team faces closer October battles and tougher opponents.
“None of these games feel comfortable,” Hinch says. “Every run is important.”
One run delivered by a super speed Straw dash could be even more vital in a heavyweight battle with the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees in a potential American League Championship Series. (If Straw makes the roster and isn’t replaced by a extra pitcher who is likely to go largely unused.) But the man seemingly born to run didn’t grow up with any big base running dreams.
“I never really thought of myself as a base stealer or worked on it a lot until a few years ago,” Straw tells PaperCity.
Straw’s proven to be a quick study. His minor league steal totals jumped from 21 in 2016 to 38 in 2017 to 70 (in 79 attempts) this year. Now, Straw comes into the Astros clubhouse every day and pulls up video clips of the pitchers he might have a chance to steal on, studying film like some mashup of Bill Belichick and Rickey Henderson.
“I have to put the work in,” Straw says.
Myles Straw’s speed forced some much more established Major League players off the Astros’ postseason roster. He’s a long shot with wheels. No one needs to tell him that every dash counts.