MLB Playoffs: Big season ends for KC Royals castoff

Its final moments were disappointing, but Ryan O'Hearn's season was good.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Few KC Royals fans don't know why the club shipped Ryan O'Hearn to Baltimore in a cash-considerations-for-player deal just three days into 2023. Put simply, it was time — past time, really — for O'Hearn and the Royals to part ways. After an excellent introduction to the majors in 2018, when in only 44 games he homered 12 times and slashed .262/.353/.597, he hit .195 twice and never pushed a season average over .239. So bad was he at the plate that his career average was only .219 when the Royals pulled the trade trigger.

But O'Hearn, given up on by Kansas City, found something he needed in Baltimore.

Success. He rebuilt a career teetering on the edge of a sad conclusion, became a valuable part of the Orioles, and found himself playing postseason baseball while his former Kansas City teammates missed out for the eighth straight season.

But now, the 2023 campaign is over for O'Hearn and the O's. Texas beat them 7-1 Tuesday night to clinch, 3-0, the clubs' best-of-five American League Division Series. Aside from the pain of losing, the ALDS didn't give O'Hearn much to remember.

The ex-KC Royals player wasn't a big factor in his team's postseason run

Unlike his 112-game regular season performance — his .289 average, 60 RBIs, and 22 doubles were all career highs, he tied a career-best with 14 homers, and he stole the first five bases of his big league career — O'Hearn's play made no real difference in the Orioles' playoff demise.

O'Hearn became a good pinch hitter late in his Kansas City tenure, and it was in that role that manager Brandon Hyde squeezed him into Saturday's ALDS opener. He batted for Ramón Urías with two outs, Aaron Hicks on first, and the Orioles down a run in the seventh. Unfortunately, he struck out, but blaming him for the 3-2 loss Baltimore eventually suffered is pointless, especially considering his teammates squandered a two-runners-on, no-out situation in the eighth.

O'Hearn pinch hit again in Sunday's Game Two. The Orioles trailed 11-8 with one out in the ninth when he batted for Jordan Westburg; with no one on base, he lined out.

He started at DH for Tuesday night's Game Three but, after going 1-for-3, Hyde chose to avoid a potential lefty-lefty battle between O'Hearn and Aroldis Chapman, the former Royals reliever who joined Texas via trade in late June, by pulling O'Hearn for switch hitter Hicks with the bases loaded and the Orioles behind by six in the eighth. Texas manager Bruce Bochy replaced Chapman with righthander José Leclerc; Hicks grounded out to end the threat and the inning.

In the end, though, 2023 was good to O'Hearn, who rediscovered his bat and made his first postseason appearances. Whether or not he returns to the Orioles remains to be seen, but look for him to play somewhere in the majors next season.

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