Long after the Toronto Blue Jays had eliminated his Texas Rangers on Sunday night, Rougned Odor emerged reluctantly from a back room of the visitor's clubhouse to face the media. In that moment, he looked not at all like the fiery second baseman who had earlier this season slugged Jose Bautista in the face.
This Rougned Odor came out long after most of his teammates had showered off the loss and left the visitor's clubhouse for the bus. The crowd of awaiting journalists gathered by his locker impatiently, shuffling their feet and grumbling about the time. Odor finally arrived still in his uniform, still dusted in red infield dirt, sad and soft spoken, full of pain and regret over an error – his error – which ended the game and the Rangers' season.
Sunday's Game 3 of their American League Division Series had been Odor's first in Toronto since his fist met the chin of the Jays star slugger in Arlington back on May 15 – retribution for what he thought was a dangerous slide from Bautista that day. The highlight video looped on sports shows for weeks.
The Jays faithful booed and heckled Odor repeatedly at the Rogers Centre on Sunday – but it didn't seem to faze him for much of the night. The Ranger with the distinctive wispy beard who many Jays fans consider Public Enemy No. 1 responded with two huge plays – a two-run homer and a key walk to keep the Rangers in the game.
But as the game stretched into tense extra innings, Odor became the goat.
Jays catcher Russell Martin hit into a fielder's choice in the tenth inning with the game tied 6-6. Odor made an errant throw to first on a potential double play that got away from first baseman Mitch Moreland. Toronto's Josh Donaldson, running from second on the play, scored the Jays' winning run in a sweep-clinching victory, beating Moreland's ensuing late throw.
"I threw a little to the side, pulled the ball a little bit. I tried to do my best there, and that's it," said an emotional Odor. "If it was a good throw, we could have made the double play. "
Instead, an exuberant bench full of Blue Jays came spilling onto the field, leaping into one another's arms to celebrate the fact that they'd just advanced to the American League Championship Series.
It was the second straight year that the Jays eliminated the Rangers in the ALDS. Odor took solace after the game in compassion from Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who had made two costly errors late in Game 5 of last year's ALDS when Toronto finished off Texas.
"I was the one to make the errors last year; I know how he feels – it's the worst feeling ever," Andrus told the press. "But we didn't lose this series on one play. We lost it in three games."
Odor struggled to explain how a Texas squad that finished 95-67 as AL champs could get swept in the playoffs 3-0 after just a few days.
"We worked so hard this year for a finish like this and now we have to try and forget about it and come next year," said Odor. "This team is like a family. After the game, everyone came up and talked to me. I tried to make the play, but pulled the ball a little bit; it's part of the game. There's nothing I can do now."
One of the few left in the sombre Rangers room, his pain was obvious, but he insisted losing to the Jays is no more painful than losing to anyone else.
"For me, I don't care. Blue Jays are just another team for me. I don't care who it is. We tried to win but we didn't," said Odor. "This is something I'm not going to forget. I'm going to do my best in the off-season and come back strong."