Kwan's historic start: 'Afraid I'm going to wake up'

April 10th, 2022

KANSAS CITY – No one has gotten off to the start that Steven Kwan has in their career. … Literally, no one.

A five-for-five performance in the Guardians' 17-3 win over the Royals on Sunday lifted Kwan into elite territory, as he became the first player since at least 1901 to reach base 12 times in his first three career games. Pair that with his collective 3-for-5 efforts the previous two games, and he’s quickly become the focal point of Cleveland’s roster. 

“I’m afraid I’m going to wake up very soon,” Kwan said, with a chuckle. 

The last few days have been a dream for the 24-year-old outfielder, who forced his way into the Opening Day lineup with his impressive at-bats, veteran approach at the plate and solid defense this spring. Since then, he’s nearly compiled a two-page big league résumé in a matter of three games. Let’s look at the abbreviated version: 

• His .800 batting average ties Mercedes for the highest in their first three career games since at least 1901 (minimum of 10 plate appearances).

• He’s the first player since at least 1901 to reach base six times in a game within his first three games. 

• He became the sixth player since at least 1901 to record a five-hit game within his first three career games, joining Yermín Mercedes (2021), Cecil Travis (1933), Red Massey (1918), Jack Dalton (1910) and Judge McCredie (1903). 

• And, as we already discussed, he’s the first player since at least 1901 to reach base 12 times in that same span. 

“That doesn’t even feel real,” Kwan said when he learned some of these stats. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an opening series like this,” said Guardians starter Cal Quantrill, who allowed two runs in five innings. “It’s silly. Odds-on favorite [for Rookie of the Year] right now. … I don’t want to jinx anything. Just keep it up.”

Kwan’s day started with singles in the first, second and third innings, as the Cleveland bats woke up for the first time this season to jump out to a 10-run lead after the first two frames. He came back in the fifth with another single before taking a pitch off the knee in the sixth to get a free pass to first.

As if that wasn’t enough, Kwan added one more hit for good measure in the eighth by smacking a double off the right-field wall.

“Incredible, but I’m not surprised,” said Oscar Mercado, who hit a grand slam in the Guardians' six-run first inning. “He’s such a good player, and he knows himself as a player and what he can do. And he’s such a sparkplug. I just think that he’s been an absolute blessing, and it’s gonna be really awesome to watch him play this year.”

It didn’t take Cleveland long to realize just how much of a sparkplug Kwan is, considering he was moved up to the two-spot in the lineup the day after his debut. And now, he can settle in even more since he spent his collegiate career hitting from that spot in the lineup.

“Obviously Myles [Straw] is on pretty much every time, so I’m usually working with a guy on base,” Kwan said, “The pitcher is conscious of him stealing, so it’s nice to not have the pitcher’s full attention and then maybe capitalize on a mistake.”

Oh, and let’s not forget about his bat-to-ball skills -- we’re going to be talking a lot about this for the foreseeable future -- considering he’s now seen 58 pitches and has yet to swing and miss. He now joins teammate Amed Rosario as two of the remaining four players in the Majors who have yet to whiff at a pitch this season (minimum of 10 swings).

Fans have gone crazy for Kwan on social media, though the outfielder says he does his best to stay off of Twitter. His teammates can’t help but smile any time they’re asked about him. And infielder Ernie Clement and starter Triston McKenzie changed their Twitter profile pictures to a photo of Kwan immediately after Sunday’s game to join in on the fun.

“He’s my favorite player,” Clement said. 

“Ernie’s a clown,” Kwan said, with a big laugh. “He’s a lover. I love that. He kind of got me on an unflattering one where I didn’t shave the ‘stache. But that’s funny stuff.”

With youth comes excitement and enthusiasm -- both of which Kwan has certainly brought to the table in just three games. Everyone knows it’s an insanely small sample size, but it’s made it easy to dream about how successful of a career he could have.

“It’s been a blast. It’s been a blessing,” Kwan said. “I can’t believe how it’s been going so far. Today’s over, though. Got to look forward to tomorrow and keep on pushing.”