Why KC Royals fans should find this ALCS interesting

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

If you’re a fan of the KC Royals, and only the Royals, little about the American League Championship Series probably commends itself to you. Houston and Boston, battling in this Series for the American League pennant and a World Series berth, aren’t bitter rivals of your club, nor do they share much in common these days with the team that came so close to finishing last in the AL Central.

And without conclusive proof that the Royals were among the teams the Astros cheated in 2017, KC fans can only share with so many other MLB fans a general disdain for Houston, a feeling which may also encompass then-Astros coach and now-Boston manager Alex Cora, a central figure in the scandal.

But if you first search every day for news of the Royals, read it when and where you find it, and only then check, out of curiosity more than anything else, to see how the ALCS is going, can you find anything interesting about this Houston-Boston series?

Yes, especially if you’re a follower of former KC Royals.

Former top KC Royals pitcher Zack Greinke will likely see action for Houston.

That Zack Greinke made the Astros’ ALCS roster isn’t big news, nor should it be. Selecting the owner of 219 big league wins, 11 of which came this season, was a no-brainer.

What makes Greinke’s presence in this Series interesting, though, is any appearances he makes could be among his last. The fact he turns 38 Thursday puts his stellar career, with its roots in Kansas City, in its twilight.

Greinke, the Royals’ first round draft pick in 2002, was a can’t miss pitching prospect who didn’t disappoint. His discomfort with the Royals’ then-losing ways is too well-chronicled to warrant more than passing mention; despite it, he was still by far the best KC had at the time and won a Cy Young award with the club before it accommodated him with a trade to Milwaukee.

He’s won a ton of games and made a gazillion dollars since then, but hasn’t pitched as well in the postseason—he’s 4-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 20 games spread across Octobers with the Brewers, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Astros. He didn’t appear in the first two games of this ALCS, but it will be interesting to see how he performs when Houston Manager Dusty Baker makes the inevitable call for him.

Will another former KC Royals pitcher atone for his bad moment in Game Two?

The sole solace Jake Odorizzi, who became a Royal via the same trade that made Greinke a Brewer, can take from the second-inning grand slam he coughed up to Boston’s Rafael Devers in Saturday’s ALCS Game 2 is that it probably made little difference in the ultimate outcome. Yes, the blow gave the Red Sox their sixth run, enough to secure a 9-5 series-tying run, but J.D. Martinez’s stunning slam an inning before set the tone for the Astros’ ultimate demise.

Odorizzi is in the ALCS on a bit of a pass, added to the roster only after Lance McCullers Jr.’s forearm tightness forced his exclusion. Whether Dusty Baker turns again to Odorizzi, and in what role—starter or reliever—will be interesting to see, but he likely earned another shot at the Sox by giving up only one more run, striking out five, and walking no one in the four innings he faced them Saturday.

Martin Maldonado is another former Royal playing for Houston in the ALCS.

Astros catcher Martin Maldonado should also interest Kansas City fans. It was Maldonado, after all, who the Royals turned to in 2019 when Tommy John surgery ruined Salvador Perez’s entire season. Although he wasn’t great at the plate (.227 with six home runs in 74 games), Maldonado served the club well behind it until the Royals sent him packing to the Cubs for pitcher Mike Montgomery in mid-July.

Chicago turned right around two weeks later and swapped him to Houston, where he’s been ever since, for Tony Kemp. Maldonado isn’t a superb hitter—his career line is .212/.290/.348—but he hit 12 homers in 125 games this season and has three postseason home runs in four playoff years.

And he’s definitely not a defensive liability. He threw out 40% of would-be base stealers in 2021, has a career .993 fielding percentage, and won a Gold Glove in 2017.

dark. Next. 3 early reasons for concern

No matter how you feel about Houston, three former KC Royals provide some reasons to pay attention to the Astros in this season’s ALCS, which resumes tonight at 7:08 CT in Boston.