He’s a dirtdog second baseman, listed under six feet but still generously gifted an inch or three on his reported height, a player who plays with an edge that agitates opponents and endears him to teammates, in that way not unlike Ian Kinsler, a player he once displaced. He can be a lightning rod, for better and occasionally for worse, and while the power he supplies belies his size, it fits perfectly into the profile, and big moments tend to find him. He’s a baseball player.
Yes, him, and also the guy in the other dugout. All of the above.
One bats from the right side, the other from the left, and that’s not where the contrast ends.
Dustin Pedroia is in the twilight of his career, a 33-year-old in the midst of a six-year contract that’s probably his last, while Rougned Odor is in the dawn of his, a 23-year-old in the early stages of a six-year contract that won’t be the final one he lands.
Pedroia is also one of baseball’s toughest strikeouts, while Odor . . . is not.
Last night’s game needed extra innings to settle, and both were a big part of the story, as is often the case.
Pedroia singled three times — two of them of the two-out, two-run variety, once giving Boston its first lead and the other time extending 3–2 to 5–2 in the pivotal sixth, an inning that should have ended at 2–2 were it not for Odor’s error on a weak three-hopper off the bat of Tzu-Wei Lin, a ball that found his glove cleanly but not his throwing hand.
Martin Perez, denied the chance to return at that point to the dugout with six complete, proceeded to walk Mookie Betts (with two outs and men on first and third, for the second time in the game), leading to his exit and Tony Barnette’s entry to face Pedroia, an at-bat that produced three runs, the first on a two-strike wild pitch that Jonathan Lucroy couldn’t contain and the last two on a roped single to right center.
Without those three gifted runs, maybe Texas still plates one each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth. Maybe not. Maybe things play out differently and it’s still a game that couldn’t be completed in nine.
One reason it played out that way is Pedroia may have been as instrumental keeping runners off base defensively as he was advancing them on offense. The routine plays were no issue. The spectacular plays — three of them — were huge.
Odor’s error, huge in its own right, more than negated the solo home run he hit two innings earlier, and on the night Boston’s pitching approach against Odor was textbook. In five trips he was thrown seven pitches in the strike zone, 15 that were not. He struck out three times — twice with two outs and a man in scoring position (contrast Pedroia’s two shortened-up, opposite-field singles in like situations) and the third time leading off the 11th, down two runs.
In that final trip, Odor’s at-bat lasted three pitches, the third of which was above the zone and a foot outside but that he thought enough of to offer at, unsuccessfully.
For their careers, Odor is more than twice as likely to strike out as Pedroia.
This year, he’s three times as likely.
For their careers, Odor’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is five times greater than Pedroia’s.
This year: Nine times greater.
Boston 5, Texas 2 featured a couple second basemen as leads in the story, two players similar in many ways but quite different in others, some of which were on plain display.
It was just one night, but — for better and for worse — it exemplified the game of two of baseball’s more dynamic second baseman, one of whom is on the back nine of a terrific career, the other with some things he clearly needs to improve upon to take his game to greater heights.