Odor keeps O's magic going with clutch HR, clubhouse charm

August 10th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- Upon contact, Rougned Odor knew. His bat stood no chance, twirled out of his hands and flipped onto the ground like he’s made a habit of doing. The ball, even more, was a goner -- 415 feet into right field at 104.2 mph. Odor turned to his dugout -- the one he’s rejuvenated this season -- pounded his chest, took a hop and then returned to home plate with arms raised, dugout energized, Home Run Chain bestowed.

Call him streaky. Call his role perplexing. Call him an enigma.

But whatever you call him, you have to call Odor clutch.

Odor’s late-heave blast was the difference in Baltimore’s 6-5 rain-slogged comeback victory over the Blue Jays at Camden Yards on Tuesday night, with the 28-year-old once again flexing his penchant for the dramatic amid an O’s season defined by it. Despite his prolonged spurts of struggle, Odor has remained a glue guy for this Orioles team -- moments like the one he created on Tuesday do much to erode offensive stagnation.

“When you have all your teammates waiting for you like that,” Odor said, “it's the best feeling ever.”

And it sure helps, regardless of any stumbles, that Odor continues to do what he did on Tuesday. Of his 11 homers on the season, six have come in moments defined by Baseball Reference as high-leverage. He lives for those late instances, and the Orioles live to watch him operate in them.

“He really takes his best at-bats when the game's on the line,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

“It's kind of unbelievable,” said starter Kyle Bradish. “I feel like he's always up in a big spot, and this season he's been delivering.”

None of Odor’s dramatic moments -- even the back-to-back walk-offs he provided in May -- may have been as important as Tuesday’s. Though it came in front of a fraction of the 11,080 on hand that sat through a rain delay of 78 minutes, it may have been their most energizing swing of the year.

The Orioles, owners of a 37-22 record since the start of June, have positioned themselves just a half-game back of a Wild Card spot. This win over the Blue Jays secured their first series victory over their potent divisional foe since July 2019. Save for the Yankees, the Orioles are .500 or better against every one of their division rivals.

Before Odor’s homer, there was a triple play that wasn’t. A ball lofted to center off the bat of Anthony Santander in the first inning was initially ruled to have been caught by Whit Merrifield, with the runners who advanced being doubled off, and the Blue Jays thought they had avoided a crucial early jam.

The call was overturned by review. The Orioles struck first, with Ryan Mountcastle continuing his historic tirade over the Blue Jays, and they struck last.

“I mean,” Hyde said, “a lot to digest here.”

In between, Odor was the focal point yet again.

He took part in key double plays in the third and fourth innings to support Bradish. In the sixth, he was charged with an error amid a four-run frame for Toronto. In the ninth, he was charged with his second error, throwing wide of Mountcastle to allow Santiago Espinal to take second base.

No matter. Odor caught the final out off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., putting a bow on a night that also featured a revamped, viral entrance for newly bestowed closer Félix Bautista.

“For me, the reason why our record is what it is … it's not because we're outscoring people,” Hyde said. “It's because of what we've done as a team defense situation, and Roogie has been a big part of that. …

“Roogie has come up with some big hits for us, and I love the attitude he brings. I feel like he brings some toughness to us, I think he brings some edge, I love what he's like in the dugout and attitude-wise, and he comes ready to play. I think it's rubbed off on others this year.”

Odor certainly has been valued -- the first name that his teammates offer up when asked why the clubhouse culture has been so vibrant, so cohesive this season.

But if you ask him, that focus should be external.

“I mean, you look around, there's a lot of good players on this team,” Odor said. “Like, a lot of young guys that not many people know, but it's a lot of good talent on this team. We play together like that and we have fun. And when we have fun, a lot of good things happen.”