HOUSTON -- Astros right fielder Hunter Pence began Sunday needing two stolen bases to become the ninth player in franchise history to reach 20 stolen bases and 20 homers in the season -- and the first since Carlos Beltran did it in 2004.
Pence, who had never stolen more than 17 bases in a professional season prior to this year, asked manager Brad Mills early in the season for a green light to run and try to take the extra base when the situation is right -- and he feels he can steal off the pitcher.
"I have to be smart," Pence said. "I'm right on the cusp of being just fast enough. I know the times the pitcher has to be [to the plate] for me to get a bag, and they understand if they pick and get the ball home quick enough, I'm not going to be able to steal on you. That's the bottom line."
Pence studies the moves of the pitcher during each pitch and confers with first-base coach Bobby Meacham about the viability of trying to steal a base. The pitcher must take 1.35 seconds or less from the start of his windup to the ball arriving at the plate for Pence to feel he has a chance.
"Most of the time I have a green light," Pence said. "There are times they don't want me to do it, but when I have the green light I'm trying to steal every pitch -- if the pitcher is long enough and it's the right situation."
Mills is all for Pence trying to run, because he doesn't want to limit his aggressiveness.
"That's one of the biggest parts of his game, both at the plate and on the field," Mills said.