ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers' 49th season in Arlington is over with a disappointing 22-38 record, the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. However, an 8-4 victory on Sunday capped a three-game winning streak over the Houston Astros as a nice sendoff for what's been a challenging year in North Texas.
To lead off the game for the Rangers, Shin-Soo Choo set the tone when he hustled down the line for a bunt base hit. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle on the bag and was forced to leave the game. Choo's plan from the beginning was to bunt or draw a walk due to his injured wrist preventing him from swinging the bat effectively.
Despite Choo's limitations, manager Chris Woodward wanted to give Choo the honor of leading off for the Rangers.
"He told me 'Choo you did it great your career in the leadoff spot. I want to put you in the leadoff spot,'" Choo said. "I will never forget today. I know 2020 was a hard time for everybody in the world butI think today I will never forget this."
The first one to greet Choo at the top of the stairs in the dugout was Rougned Odor, who embraced him with a hug. Even the sternest enforcers of social distancing may have had a soft spot for that moment.
"Choo is one of my best I've teammates ever had," Odor said. "He's one of those guys that are always there for you, always try to make you a better person, a better player, and I just feel like I needed to be the first guy there to give him a hug.
"This year has been tough for everybody. And that guy is one of the best guys I ever met. Always there for you. Always try to help you, always try to make you a better person, and I appreciate that. That's why I was there in the dugout."
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Rougned Odor finished a very challenging 2020 season with an exclamation point. He hit two home runs, including a three-run bomb that gave the Rangers the lead in the fourth inning. Heading into the offseason, Odor's status with the Rangers remains up in the air. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has already publicly announced that Odor's spot in the lineup is not guaranteed. In addition, he will surely be a topic of trade conversations over the winter.
However, Odor is determined to not only keep his spot in the lineup, but to retire as a Texas Ranger.
"I think I’m going to be here forever,” Odor said. “I don't want to play for another team. I love this team and I want to be here. I want to win with this team.”
Even in a day where the veterans shined, Leody Taveras reminded us all just how bright his future might be. To lead off the seventh inning, Taveras laid down a perfectly executed bunt for an uncontested base hit. He then stole second base on the next pitch with ease. On the pitch after that, he stole third base as well, which caused a wild throw into the outfield by Houston catcher Dustin Garneau. Taveras trotted home on the error, manufacturing a run all by himself.
“I would expect to see it more often," Woodward said. "It just shows you, this kid can impact the game in so many different ways. ... He’s just scratching the surface on what he is as a hitter. He's got some things to fix obviously, but he can impact the game in so many different ways. And right there, just a 15-foot bunt and he's at home two pitches later. It's pretty cool thing to see.”
With the regular season now at a close, the Rangers will decompress and prepare for a winter that comes with a considerable number of questions. The Rangers will be younger, but how management determines which young players are truly ready and where they need to supplement externally—while also cutting payroll—will be something to watch throughout the offseason.
"Overall, I'm proud of our guys for fighting until the end," Woodward said. "We've got a lot of work to do obviously going into next year."