Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers see four-walk game as another sign of progress for Rougned Odor

Rangers waste opportunity with high strike and caught stealing

The Texas Rangers' offense continued to struggle, especially with runners in scoring position in Saturday's 3-2 loss.
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The Texas Rangers' offense continued to struggle, especially with runners in scoring position in Saturday's 3-2 loss.

Rougned Odor has improved, even if it’s hard to notice sometimes.

The Texas Rangers’ second baseman isn’t exactly off to a rip-roaring August at the plate, but he’s getting on base at a higher clip than he has all year.

Odor, who was 1 for 4 Saturday in the Rangers’ 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, walked four times Friday night as his on-base percentage for August reached .379.

Although he’s batting only .143 in the month, Rangers manager Chris Woodward is hoping the higher OBP is a sign that the 25-year-old has really turned a corner in his maturation as a major league hitter.

Odor had four walks combined in his previous eight games before walking four times Friday. He never walked more than twice in a game his first three seasons in the league. In 2017 and 2018 combined, he walked three or more times just twice.

“That was a huge step for Rougie,” Woodward said. “He wants to do things up there. He’s not passive. He was ready to hit for four straight at-bats, but he said no because they weren’t where he was looking.”

Much of Woodward’s philosophy for the Rangers’ offense is based on hitters having a swing at every pitch approach but being able to put on the brakes when the pitch isn’t where they prefer it. Instead of getting in the batter’s box with a wait-and-see approach, or, in other words, using a more conservative approach to each pitch, the Rangers want their hitters to view each pitch like it will be a strike down the middle up until the split-second moment they realize (hopefully) it’s not. This is not revolutionary batting technique, but perhaps a new way to view the process of hitting for some. Odor, who is a naturally aggressive swinger, has struggled more than anyone to find success with the approach.

The picky approach, Woodward said, should remain intact even with a hitter’s count. The Rangers’ offense has scuffled on this road trip and through five innings Saturday night, had combined for just 14 hits in their previous 32 innings.

“We talked about it in the hitter’s meeting before Fridays’ game,” Woodward said. “We need to remain stubborn in those 2-0 counts to maintain our advantage. If you get a strike to hit, try to do damage with it. But if it doesn’t, we have to be stubborn in the strike zone and almost shrink our strike zone.”

Odor was ahead 2-0 during his first at-bat Friday night and swung and missed at a breaking ball in the dirt. Odor realized immediately that he had abandoned the appropriate approach on the pitch. He stepped out, looked up and let out a big exhale.

The next pitch was just off the plate and Odor laid off. He did the same on the next pitch for his first of four walks.

“I really like that,” Woodward said of the four-walk night. “That was really good for all of us to see for him.”

Of course, old habits die hard. That was the case for Odor in the eighth inning with the Rangers trailing by a run with one out and runners at first and second. He was ahead 2-0 in the count before fouling off a strike. He took Ball 3 before striking out on a fastball above the zone. To make matters worse, Elvis Andrus was thrown out at second on the back end of a double-steal attempt to end the inning.

Brewers’ starter Adrian Houser, who threw up behind the mound during the first inning, struck out a career-high 10 in six innings and earned the win.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.