Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor hit his first home run since July 28 on Sunday afternoon. That was a welcome sight for the Texas, because the club knows what Odor can mean to its offense.
But Odor also had trouble turning a tough double play in the second inning, and that critical mistake seemed to change everything for the Rangers against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Odor’s home run gave the Rangers a two-run lead in the top of the second, but the the double-play shortcoming opened the way for the Rockies to score five runs off Kolby Allard that same inning. Texas couldn’t recover in a 10-6 loss that prevented the team from completing a three-game sweep, also ending their four-game win streak.
“Obviously, we stress the importance of every play and how critical they are,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I am not going to point to one specific play, but in this case it does revolve around one play. If we turn that double play, everything is different. If you give that team with that lineup in this ballpark extra outs, that was the big one. It gave them extra life.”
The loss dropped the Rangers back into third place in the American League West with the Astros beating the Mariners on Sunday. Texas, at 10-10, is a half-game behind Houston through one-third of the 60-game schedule.
Woodward said his team's defense must get better for Texas to reach the postseason.
“It hasn’t been great,” Woodward said. “I am not going to be shy about it. We haven’t been playing really great defense. We’ve got to play better defense, especially if we want to contend. We’ve got to execute those plays, that’s just a fact. The bottom line, we have to get better.”
Allard began the day by striking out the side in the first inning. The second was a different matter after Nolan Arenado led off with a single and Daniel Murphy popped out.
That brought up Matt Kemp, a right-handed pull hitter, and the Rangers shifted three infielders -- including Odor -- to the left side of second base. Kemp did pull the ball, hitting a chopper that third baseman Todd Frazier fielded behind the bag. Frazier got the force at second, but Odor’s relay was off-target. Instead of a potential double play, Kemp was safe, and the fateful inning was extended.
“I was on the shortstop side, so it was kind of difficult to get to second base and turn,” Odor said. “Normally I am never in that spot; it’s hard for me on that play. But it’s no excuse. I should have made that throw in the chest. It was my fault right there.”
Certainly, it would have been a much easier play if Odor had been in his normal spot on the other side of second base. But that he wasn't is emblematic of the new emphasis on extreme shifting.
“That’s on us to work through it,” Woodward said. “Those are things you have to work on. It’s no longer standing in your traditional spot. That’s not an excuse, because we know that. We know we are going to be on that side of second base. So it’s on all of us to make sure we get the reps in we need.”
Allard was further extended in the second when Raimel Tapia singled to end a 10-pitch at-bat. Ryan McMahon then put the Rockies ahead with a three-run home run. They weren’t done. Drew Butera walked and Garrett Hampson's single moved him to third. Trevor Story then hit a high popup into shallow right that fell between first baseman Derek Dietrich and Odor. Butera scored,and Charlie Blackmon’s single made it 5-2.
“At that point, Kolby is out of gas,” Woodward said of his young lefty, who threw 39 pitches in the frame. “It takes you down when your starting pitcher has to throw 40 pitches in an inning. It’s pretty much game over. It’s a good lesson for us. We have to finish those plays off, we have to finish those innings off. This is what happens.”