Rougned Odor’s second-inning home run got the oohs and aahs Thursday night against the Kansas City Royals.
The jawing between Odor and Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura is friendly banter that goes back to their days in the minor leagues. That also drew some attention.
But a not-so-routine routine play in the ninth inning that didn’t draw as much attention might have been the play that saved the Texas Rangers.
After Sam Dyson issued a leadoff walk in the ninth to Kendrys Morales, Jarrod Dyson entered as a pinch runner. There was no doubt that he was going to try to steal second base, and he did a few pitches into the next at-bat.
The throw from Robinson Chirinos airmailed second base, and Odor, backing up the bag, lunged to catch the throw before it could get into center field and let Dyson the speedster get to third with no outs.
Dyson the closer was able to get the next three batters and preserve the Rangers’ fourth in win in their past six games. That 3-2 win pushed the Rangers lead in the American League West to three games over the Houston Astros, who had an off day.
After some sloppy defense by Odor this month, it’s time he got a little recognition.
Here’s some more Rangers Reaction from Thursday.
1. At the very least, the Rangers will be keeping their rotation in its current order after the Monday off day. They haven’t said that, but the biggest clue to their intentions was revealed when Cole Hamels threw 123 pitches in eight innings.
They were eight very good innings, which included a season-high 12 strikeouts and only one walk. He gave up an ambush homer on the first pitch of the second inning and limited the Royals to one run in the fifth after they opened with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners.
As would be expected for a pitcher with 12 strikeouts, Hamels filled up the strike zone. His final 10 strikeouts were swinging, so his stuff was very good. He credited being able to establish the fastball, which allowed his off-speed pitches to be that much more effective.
Manager Jeff Banister went with Hamels for a seventh inning and then an eighth despite starting it at 110 pitches because the bullpen was worn down and because of the off day. There’s this: Hamels is the Rangers’ ace, and he has a track record of working deep in games.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Hamels said. “It’s late in the year, and we all know where we’re at physically.”
Hamels (12-2, 2.84 ERA) will likely pitch Wednesday, though they could give him an additional day. Hamels, though, likes the way the rotation is set up with him following the staff’s other ace, Yu Darvish.
It’s pretty formidable 1-2 punch, which is what was expected last July when Hamels was acquired. It’s actually happening.
2. Mitch Moreland said that Hamels was the story of the game, but Hamels was impressed by the opposite-field pop Moreland showed against flame-throwing Royals starter Yordano Ventura.
Moreland went oppo twice, once to tie the game in the fifth and again in the eighth with the game-winning run. It’s not unusual to see Moreland stroke homers to the opposite field, and it’s a sign that he’s in a groove when he does.
Moreland is finding his power stroke, with five homers in the past 10 games. He has three since Joey Gallo was recalled Tuesday. Moreland knows that he is expected to hit the long ball.
“I’m definitely not a base stealer,” Moreland said. “I know that’s what I’m looked upon as, trying to hit something in the gap or maybe drive the ball out of the park. It’s something I work towards. I’m not saying I try to hit home runs, but I’m trying to get a good pitch up in the zone and trying to put an aggressive swing on it.”
Moreland has 16 homers, seven shy of his 2015 total that was good for a tie for the team lead with Prince Fielder. He’s not coming back this season. The Rangers need Moreland to be a power threat, and he’s trending that way.
3. Josh Hamilton says he will be in Rangers spring training next year, even if it’s on a minor-league deal and he has to win a roster spot. That is the most likely scenario, with no guarantees for that roster spot Hamilton wants.
But there’s a chance, if his knee is as healthy as he said on Thursday that it’s going to be and if Fielder is unable to play at the start or the season or at all next season.
Not re-signing Ian Desmond could also work in Hamilton’s favor.
The Rangers will need a designated hitter, and Hamilton could do that. He would do so at a bargain price, and he could still play the outfield if needed better than Fielder could play first base.
As unreliable as Hamilton’s health has been, the Rangers have to be curious to see if all that ailed him the past two seasons has been remedied by the ACL repair and other work that was done last month on his left knee.
Maybe not all. There was that September fall when he reinjured his knee and cracked a rib. He had groin and hamstring issues in June 2015. It was the knee, though, that left the Rangers balking on his future.
Fielder’s future might actually be more bleak, though it might be months before the effects of a third fused disk in his neck are known. The steady hands of Dr. Drew Dossett will fix the herniation Friday.
If Desmond doesn’t return, if an outfielder or two is traded away before Monday’s deadline, Hamilton becomes a more serious option.
And, to his credit, he seems to know he’s a long shot. He’s knows he’s getting older. He knows what he has put his body through on and off the field.
But the Rangers have to be curious to see what’s left, right?