Baseball is Steven Kwan’s game, we’re just lucky to live in it. Other players contributed to the Guardians’ 17-3 trouncing of the Royals, of course, but we’ll get to them later. Right now, all I want to talk about is Cleveland’s sudden-star rookie.
Kwan built upon his impressive first two games of the season (in which he went 3-for-8 with three walks) by blowing the doors off his own hype train in Kansas City. He finished a perfect 5-for-5 this afternoon, raising his season batting average to an absurd .800 through three games.
Not only did he not strike out in his five at-bats, but he didn’t even swing and miss in the game. The only four strikes against him were called, and one was borderline at worst. He swung six times and put five balls in play. He seemingly tracked every pitch the moment it left the pitchers’ hands, and he made contact all over the field. In short, his afternoon was incredible.
Kwan’s impressive day started as part of the rally that sparked the Guardians to their first win of 2022. His first hit followed Myles Straw’s lead-off walk and preceded José Ramírez scoring them both with a bases-clearing double. After two outs from Franmil Reyes and Amed Rosario, Owen Miller continued his own hot start to the season with a single, and Ernie Clement walked to load the bases. Then, Oscar Mercado — likely on his last chance in Cleveland — hit a grand slam to give the Guardians a 6-0 lead and they were off to the races.
It didn’t matter what pitcher the Royals threw at Cleveland today, they just kept getting hammered. Five Guards batters finished with multi-hit days and only Bryan Lavastida failed to record a hit in his major-league debut — but even he drew a walk in the later innings.
When the Royals had the audacity — the downright audacity — to score two runs of their own in the third inning, Cleveland responded with two more in the top of the fourth thanks to an Owen Miller single and Oscar Mercado triple.
By the fifth, the Guardians led by a comical score of 13-2 and they would pile on several more through the end of the game, including José Ramírez’s first homer of the season that also scored, who else, Steven Kwan. Ramírez’s shot was an absolute laser hit so hard that the producers couldn’t even react in time to switch cameras and catch it leaving Kauffman Stadium’s outfield.
Even Franmil Reyes, who started the game looking off-balance and uncomfortable, recovered from two straight strikeouts to record a pair of hits late in the game. The offense was firing all on cylinders and then some.
Owen Miller reached base via a walk in the season opener and started this game with three-straight hits. He still figures to be a platoon player at best for a little while, but combined with his solid end to 2021, he may be playing his way into more time before long.
Oh, and did I mention that the Cleveland also pitched in this game? They tend to do that occasionally and today was Cal Quantrill’s turn to take the mound for the first time as a Guardian. He leaned heavily — and I mean heavily — on his sinker/slider combination. He threw the off-setting pitches for 64 of his 76 total pitches and generated five of his seven whiffs on the slider. The sinker curiously did most of its work up in the zone, while the slider was used to keep hitters off-balance away.
Quantrill thrives on weak contact and that’s exactly what he got today. He only generated a handful of swings and misses, mostly on his slider, but that was all he needed. The Royals were held to an average exit velocity of 84.7 miles per hour, mostly buoyed by a Carlos Santana 109.4 mile-per-hour lineout in the fourth inning.
Eli Morgan, Sam Hentges, and the recently acquired Anthony Castro were called in for mop-up duty in the blowout and did their job admirably. Morgan, in particular, looked right at home coming out of the bullpen as he was able to rely solely on his fastball and outstanding changeup.
Nothing about today is sustainable for a full season, but right now that shouldn’t matter. Enjoy the first win of the season, and embrace Steven Kwan as the greatest baseball player to ever do it.