Walk-off home runs are all fun, but some are more fun than others. Tuesday night in Texas, Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor provided a classic of the genre. With the Rangers down one run in the ninth (deficits are better than ties, for this sort of thing) and a runner on, he got a 97 mile-per-hour sinker below the strike zone from Mariners closer Edwin Diaz (good pitches, as this one was, are preferable to hangers). Odor met it clean with a chopping swing, and the ball flew out to straightaway center. Rangers fans didn't have to wait for it to clear the fence to start celebrating; they could tell by his reaction that it was gone. Odor dropped his bat, stood, and admired his work for a moment, very much feeling himself.
The Rangers have plenty of players better than Odor. Third baseman Adrian Beltre is the team's unquestioned leader, and centerfielder Ian Desmond figured in the MVP conversation for much of the season. Starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish make as daunting a one-two punch as you'll find. Deadline acquisitions Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran are virtuosos; if Texas reaches the World Series, the trades that brought them in will be heavily cited as reasons why.
On a roster of experts, though, Odor is the player who most demands your attention. A 22 year-old, sub-six-foot fire hydrant, he plays with something too hard-edged to call gusto. His defense is all dives and scampers; it sometimes seems like he's trying to scrape the buttons off his uniform. At the plate, he swings like someone twice his size: an uppercutting, from-the-heels job, the second deck in right always his target. His statistics capture his approach completely—a bunch of homers, a bunch more strikeouts, low OBP and high slugging—but don't quite get at his appeal. He's a grab bag of trouble, a string of firecrackers with some M-80s in it.
Impressive though it was, Tuesday's walk-off will not be the highlight of Odor's year—nor, for that matter, will anything he does from here on out. That honor has already been given to the right fist he landed on the jaw of Jose Bautista back in May, a punch that earned him a seven-game suspension and a folk hero's standing in Arlington.
But the two plays, or the play and the non-play, are shot through with the same energy. The only way Odor does anything is full-bore; the only outcomes are dramatic. This might not be the healthiest way to make it through a six-month season or pursue professional excellence, but—in a ninth inning down by one or an eighth-inning fistfight—it makes for great TV.