Alex Rios signed with the Kansas City Royals, in part, because he had never reached the postseason. It seemed to be a bold choice, as the Royals were typically expected by baseball prognosticators to revert back to their previous status as doormats in the American League.
As the season began, and the Royals went 7-0, Rios was on fire. He had hit the ball well throughout Spring Training, and continued to do so in the first week of the season, producing a .321/.345/.464 batting line with a home run and eight RBI. Then, he was hit in the hand, missed six weeks, and the narrative changed.
The Royals kept on going with Rios on the shelf, and it was hoped that his return would give the offense the boost that they needed at times. Instead, Rios struggled when he came back from the disabled list. Even though he showed flashes of the form he had over the first week of the season, his 2015 season was enough of a disappointment where it was fair to wonder if he would even be on the postseason roster.
Then, over the final five weeks of the season, Rios started to heat up once more. From August 22 through the end of the season, Rios produced a .306/.325/.481 batting line, swatting nine doubles, two triples and two home runs. In those 29 games, Rios had almost half of his total extra base hits for the 2015 season.
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Rios continued that hot hitting through the first two rounds of the playoffs. After a solid ALDS against the Houston Astros, Rios produced a .368/.368/.526 batting line against the Toronto Blue Jays, a team where he had spent the first six years of his career. Even though he slumped during the World Series, with only two hits in his 15 at bats, Rios was a crucial part of the Kansas City Royals lineup being able to be that buzzsaw that the Blue Jays had to face.
A major part of what made the Royals so dangerous in the playoffs, and throughout the regular season, was that relentless lineup. Rios, hitting the ninth spot, occupied what was essentially a second leadoff position for the Royals. His ability to get on base during the American League side of the bracket helped the Royals get exactly what they needed from their offense and helped spark their incredible ability to make comeback after comeback.
In the end, Rios accomplished exactly what he had hoped for when he signed with the Royals. Not only did he finally make the postseason for the first time in his eleven year career, but Rios made an impact upon the Royals ability to advance. That production over the final few weeks carried over to the postseason, as Rios was a key factor in the Royals taking home their first World Series title since 1985.
It may not have been easy for Alex Rios this season, but that is fitting. After all, with the Kansas City Royals winning so many games in comeback fashion during the playoffs, who could have expected anything different?