Texas Rangers

Odor recites familiar refrain as key to hot streak. Why would Rangers believe him now?

That Rangers win “impossible” for Woodward to describe

Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward tries to explain how his team managed to beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
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Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward tries to explain how his team managed to beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

Wednesday wasn’t the first time the Texas Rangers and their frustrated fans have heard Rougned Odor tell reporters that he is sticking to his approach.

The Rangers have been asking that of him for the past three seasons, spanning two managers and two hitting coaches and now backed with high-falutin analytics.

The result has been the same.

Not very good.

So, the fans who publicly express their disdain for Odor don’t believe him. They don’t believe in the season-best stretch he took into Thursday as the Rangers closed out their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Even manager Chris Woodward said he doesn’t know why Odor should be believed, though Woodward isn’t sure what Odor’s approach was after previous hot streaks in 2017 and 2018.

But Woodward is a tireless advocate for Odor. Believes in him hook, line and sinker. Loves his baseball skill set and loves him as a person.

But even Woodward understands there will be a limit.

“We’re not interested in one good month,” Woodward said.

For now, the Rangers are going to ride this out. They have only 14 games remaining this season but more than $30 million remaining on Odor’s contract over the next three years.

Money talks.

Second base is Odor’s position to lose next spring, despite Danny Santana and Nick Solak emerging as viable options.

“He needs to earn that job,” Woodward said.

Odor connected for a three-run homer in the seventh inning Wednesday to move the Rangers out of an 8-7 hole and into a 10-8 lead in a game they won 10-9. It was his 25th homer of the season, which is third among MLB second basemen, and his fourth of the month.

He attributed his current hot stretch and the homer, against tough Rays reliever Nick Anderson, to, again, sticking with his approach. Instead of anticipating how he is going to be pitched and swinging at a pitcher’s pitch, Odor is going to the plate anticipating his pitch.

He’s not always going to get it, and he will have to survive facing a pitcher’s pitch or two or three. Odor has been getting beat on pitches at the top of the strike zone and higher, and he took the bait in his first at-bat.

All his weaknesses have been exposed by hitting coach Luis Ortiz and assistant hitting coach Callix Crabbe. They have finally started to pry open the door that Odor had kept closed, perhaps by overconfidence, and he is open to what they are teaching him.

“Right now, I’m just believing what I’m doing in practice,” he said. “I’m staying with what I’m doing in practice and I believe that. Sometimes it hard to believe what you’re doing in practice, but it’s something I’ve been working on.”

He entered Thursday batting .325 (13 for 40) over his past 11 games to improve his average 11 points to .203, but that is still the worst average among all MLB qualifying hitters.

But if he sticks to his approach this time, the third straight season he has said he has found a new approach, the more consistent he would become.

That’s the trick.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress over the last little while,” Woodward said. “I’ve seen progress at times this year and then it’s gone away and it’s come back and it’s gone away. This time it seems a little more real because he’s sustained his success a little longer. He’s valuing the strike zone. The whole question is if he can be consistent.”

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After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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