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Blue Jays next up to face the mighty Steven Kwan

And everyone else too, I guess

MLB: Game One-San Diego Padres at Cleveland Guardians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

You don’t have to do this, Blue Jays of Toronto. You can leave now and we’ll pretend this challenge was never presented. Go back to your fruitful land of maple and leaves. But should you choose to advance, to make the journey to Cleveland, know that he will be here.

He will be in the outfield.

He will be hitting every pitch you attempt to get by him.

You cannot stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

He is Steven Kwan.

The Guardians’ sensational rookie outfielder will bring a four-game hitting streak into this four-game series against the Blue Jays. He’s fresh off the first walk-off hit of his young career, and he’s struck out exactly once since April 24, and just seven times in his 74 plate appearances this season. It turns out, actually, he wasn’t going to be a player an OPS in the millions for his entire career, but even now — a month into the season — he has settled into an exceptional overall hitter with a .328/.419/.443 slash and six of his 20 hits going for extra bases.

Kwan is still the best in the league at avoiding swings and misses, with a swinging strike rate of just 1.8% — the next closest is the Twins’ Luis Arráez at 3.7%. As you might expect, he also leads the league in contact rate at 95% (Arráez trails at 91.4%). There will likely still be some regression (because, if not, put him in the Hall of Fame right now), but there is still plenty of time for us to marvel at a rookie taking the league by storm week after week.

This isn’t an article solely about Steven Kwan, though — as much as I wish it could be. He and the rest of his Guardian teammates will welcome the Blue Jays to Progressive Field for the first time since last May. They dropped two of three in that series, including an 11-2 thrashing in the series finale.

Kwan will certainly help them this time around, but the Blue Jays are arguably leagues better than they were just a year ago, while the Guardians have stayed mostly the same. Toronto’s homegrown stars such as Vladimir Guerraro Jr. and Bo Bichette are one year older and one year better, George Springer is healthy, and they acquired Matt Chapman in the offseason from the fire-selling A’s. Both Guerrero and Springer are tied for 10th in the league in home runs with six apiece. Bichette hasn’t found the success of those two yet, but he’s hitting the ball hard, with the eighth-highest hard-hit rate at 55.7%.

The Blue Jays have worked to piece together a pitching rotation after struggling to develop a core of rotation arms, and so far it seems to be working. With the exception of José Berríos (who had a slow start to the season but has since recovered in his last couple of outings), the Guardians will be facing pitchers with sub-4.00 ERAs.

Sunday’s starter, six-foot-six Alek Manoah, made the jump straight from High-A in 2019 to Triple-A and eventually the majors in 2021. This year he has a 1.45 ERA and looks like everything the Blue Jays dreamed of when they drafted him 11th overall three years ago. He features four pitches — a mid-90s four-seamer fastball, sinker, changeup, and potentially dominant slider.

After splitting their doubleheader against the Padres yesterday, the curse of sweeps appears to be broken for the Guardians. But with that said, sweeping a four-game series against the Blue Jays wouldn’t be too bad.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 16-10 (3rd in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 97 (8th in AL)
  • Run Differential: -7 (9th in AL)
  • Last 10: 6-4
  • Slash: .241/.300/.403
  • wOBA: .313 (6th in AL)
  • wRC+: 105 (7th in AL)
  • ERA: 3.68 (10th in AL)
  • SIERA: 3.33 (3rd in AL)
  • K-BB%: 16.3% (3rd in AL)

Projected starters

Thursday, May 5, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP José Berríos vs. RHP Aaron Civale
Friday, May 6, 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. RHP Shane Bieber
Saturday, May 7, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Ross Stripling vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
Sunday, May 8, 1:40 p.m. ET: RHP Alek Manoah vs. TBD (RHP Kirk McCarty)

Roster

Poll

How many games will the Guardians win against the Blue Jays?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    4
    (10 votes)
  • 7%
    3
    (10 votes)
  • 40%
    2
    (51 votes)
  • 31%
    1
    (40 votes)
  • 11%
    0
    (15 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now