Photo: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

After scoring one run through their first two games, the Guardians offense seemed to find a gift from the heavens and scored an, what seemed like impossible at first, 27 runs over their final two games to split their four-game series with the Kansas City Royals to start the 2022 regular season. 

Game 1: Royals 3 – Guardians 1: W: Scott Barlow (1-0), L: Triston McKenzie (0-1)

Cleveland: 

Shane Bieber: 4.2 IP, 3H, 1ER, 4K

Jose Ramirez: 1-4, 2B, RBI

Kansas City:

Zack Greinke: 5.2 IP, 5H, 1ER, K

Bobby Witt Jr. 1-4, 2B, RBI

Game 2: Royals 1 – Guardians 0 (10): W: Collin Snider (1-0), L: Emmanuel Clase (0-1)

Cleveland

Zach Plesac: 5.2 IP, 3H, 3K

Steven Kwan: 2-3, 2B, BB

Kansas City:

Brad Keller: 6.0 IP, 2H, BB, 5K

Adalberto Mondesi: 1-3, RBI, BB

Game 3: Guardians 17 – Royals 3: W: Cal Quantrill (1-0), L: Kris Bubic (0-1)

Cleveland:

Steven Kwan: 5-5, 4R

Jose Ramirez: 3-4, HR, D, 3RBIs, 3R

Oscar Mercado: 2-6, GS, 3B, 5RBIs

Kansas City:

Bobby Witt Jr: 1-4, RBI

Game 4: Guardians 10 – Royals 7: W: Logan Allen (1-0), L: Jake Brentz (1-1)

Cleveland:

Aaron Civale: 3.1 IP, 4H, 4R, 2ER, 3BB, 3K

Steven Kwan: 1-3, 3B, 3RBIs, 2BB

Oscar Mercado: 1-5, HR, 3RBIs, K

Kansas City:

Carlos Hernandez: 4.1 IP, 6H, 4ER, 2BB, K, HR

Andrew Benintendi: 3-3, HR, 3RBIs, 2R, BB

The Legend of Steven Kwan

All throughout Spring Training and leading up to the season, there has been a lot of hype around Steven Kwan. After a 2021 minor league season that saw him bat nearly .320 between Double-A and Triple-A, Kwan continued that hot streak in the spring and earned himself a roster spot with the Guardians. After continuing to stay productive, and amazingly not striking out, Kwan was given the nod to start in the outfield on opening day. Four games down, and I don’t think there is any hitter hotter on this planet than Kwan is. For the series, Kwan batted 9-13 with two doubles, a triple, five walks and three RBI. And he STILL hasn’t struck out. In fact, he hasn’t even swung and missed at a pitch in his first four games. 

He’s touched base and an incredible 15 times in four games, the second-most all-time. After being moved to the two-hole in the batting lineup, Kwan has been other-worldly. After going 2-3 in the second game, he took the baseball world by storm in his third game. Kwan went 5-5 with four runs in a 17-3 destruction of the Royals. Kwan etched himself into history during the game. 

First, Kwan became the sixth player since 1901 to go five for five in their third career game. Also, Kwan reached base 12 times in his first three games, shattering the previous record of 10. In the fourth game, Kwan came up to bat in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and clinging to a 6-5 lead. Kwan then hit a sharp line drive into the right-field corner and everybody on base scored as Kwan slid into third base with a 3-run triple to make it 9-5, putting the finishing touches on a debut that may never be topped. Manager Terry Francona talked about how impressive of a debut he’s had.

“His at-bats are terrific,” Francona said. “They tried to throw high pitches in the third game and came at him with off-speed in the fourth. His at-bats are terrific and I’m stating the obvious here. I bet there’s a lot of player development people who have their chest out right now and rightfully so.”

It’s safe to say everybody in the Guardians fanbase is going crazy about Steven Kwan, and rightfully so. His batting average currently is .692, his OBP is .789 and his OPS is a ridiculous 1.789. It seems that there are going to be a lot of Kwan Guardians jersey’s being delivered around Northeast Ohio this week. 

One of the greatest mid-series offensive turnarounds ever?

In the first two games of the series, the Guardians offense struggled, to say the least. They managed one run in 19 innings, including going scoreless in 15 straight between the two games. They were 1-14 with runners in scoring position, nobody could seem to find any rhythm, and outside of Kwan, there wasn’t much excitement. Everyone thought that this was what it was going to be like for much of the season. Then came the third game of the series, where changes included Owen Miller at first base and Oscar Mercado in right field. The game seemed different immediately, mostly because the Guardians scored two early runs in the first, more than they had the previous two games combined. he Guardians first home run of the season came off of a grand slam by Oscar Mercado. Everyone was expecting that right? 6-0 in the first inning. Then they added four runs in the second,  two in the fourth, one in the fifth, three in the seventh and one in the eighth. All in all, that’s 17 runs, the most the franchise has scored since they had 19 against the New York Yankees back in the 2019 season. 

“Putting up six in the first was huge.” Francona said. “Then four more in the second. You can’t do that every day, but it’s always good considering how the first two games went.”

Funny enough, they nearly did the exact same thing in the fourth game. They went back-to-back games with double-digit runs for the first time since June 17 and 18th in 2021, Which were a 10-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles and an 11-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. A 10-7 win, which also featured a home run by Mercado, allowed them to split the series. Terry Francona talked about the play of Mercado and Owen Miller over the final two games:

“I thought Owen looked like he did in Triple-A early last year,” Francona said, “and Oscar hit the home run. I like what I’ve seen from our guys these past two games.”

Pitching

The pitching staff allowed 14 runs through four games against the Royals, with the majority of them coming in the final game of the series. That comes out to about 3.5 runs per game, which considering the offense scored 28 runs in four games, should come out to a 4-0 record. However, their poor hitting in the first two games put them 2-2 on the year. All four starters are on load management duties according to Francona because of the short spring training period, which lasted only three weeks instead of the regular six weeks. This has become a custom around the league as no one feels that their pitchers will be able to throw 90+ pitches this early considering the quick transition into the regular season. Bieber went 5.1, Plesac went 5.2, Quantrill went five innings and Civale lasted the shortest at only 3.1. They only allowed a combined six runs between the four of them, while the bullpen allowed eight. Triston McKenzie, who will be on the mound for the Guardians on Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds, pitched in relief in the first game and Eli Morgan did the same as well, two pitchers who were thrust into the starting rotation last year and begin coming out of the ‘pen. 

Who’s performing

Steven Kwan: What can be said that hasn’t already been said yet about Kwan? Maybe the fact that his A.L. Rookie of the Year odds have improved from 75-1 to 7-1 in the span of four games:

Owen Miller: There’s been so much talk about Kwan that it has overshadowed a very impressive series from Owen Miller. Miller played the last two games of the series at first base and put together a very solid performance that normally would be getting them a lot of hype. His best performance came in game three, where he went 3-6 with 4 RBIs. 

Stat line: 6-11, 3 2B, BB, 4 RBI, 4R

Amed Rosario: Rosario moved into the five spot in the lineup starting in the second game and is on a four-game hitting streak to start the year. Rosario led MLB with six games with at least four hits. He’s already got one this year as he went 4-5 in their 17-3 win, getting four RBI and three runs. Terry Francona will tell you that his favorite play of the series came when the Guardians were winning 11-2 and Rosario hit a ground ball to second base but sprinted to beat out the tag. That brought home a run. 

“When he beat out that throw at first, that was my favorite play of the whole day. That’s how you play the game.”

Stat line: 8-18, 4 RBI, 3R

Who isn’t

Bobby Bradley: Things aren’t looking too hot for Bobby Bradley. His lack of production and strikeouts throughout the spring has been noticeably critiqued, and he didn’t really do anything to change that during this first series. After starting at first base the first two games, in which he went 0-4 with a strikeout, he was replaced by Owen Miller, who had six hits in the series. There could very much be a possibility that Bradley is left off the 26-man roster when it’s reduced in May and especially with Josh Naylor close to returning. 

Austin Hedges: Hedges played in three of the four games in the series with the Royals. Each time he batted in the nine spot. He didn’t do anything to improve his spot, as he went 0-10 during the series with four strikeouts, three of them coming in the 1-0 loss on Saturday. Considering how he is going to be in the lineup for nearly every game because the other option is the just called up Bryan Lavastida and the injured Luke Maile, Hedges has to produce in some shape and capacity. 

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