There was plenty of hype on opening day in Kansas City for a young player making his Major League debut. Just not this player.
Bobby Witt, Jr., the top prospect in baseball, was the center of attention for the Royals, and he has made a splash in his first three games. He had a game-winning hit in the first game, a game-saving defensive play in the second game, and has three RBIs through three games.
But those numbers pale in comparison to the Guardians’ Steven Kwan, who is 8-of-10, plus three walks and a hit-by-pitch, so far in three games in his debut season. The eight hits are one shy of the MLB record for hits in a player’s first three career games (Coaker Triplett with the Cubs, 1938).
In Sunday’s shellacking of the Royals, Kwan was 5-of-5, becoming the sixth player since at least 1901 to record a five-hit game within his first three career games. Kwan has an on-base percentage of .857 and an OPS of 1.857.
“This has surpassed any fever dream I’ve ever had,” Kwan said. “This is unbelievable. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up pretty soon.”
Manager Terry Francona added, “If I was his teammates, I’d be rubbing all up against him. Again, it’s three games in, but nobody wants to not get excited. Shoot, man, when our young guys wanna do things like that, it is exciting.”
Kwan and the Guardians will try to salvage a split of the four-game series to open the season. The Royals won two cliff-hangers to start the season before Cleveland pounded the Royals 17-3 Sunday afternoon.
In Sunday’s game, Oscar Mercado had his first career grand slam and a career-high five RBIs. Owen Miller had a career-high four RBIs and Jose Ramirez had three hits, three RBIs and three runs scored for the Guardians.
The Guardians will send Aaron Civale to the mound to face Kansas City’s Carlos Hernandez.
Civale is coming off his first winning campaign, finishing 2021 with a 12-5 record and a 3.84 ERA. He had a WHIP of 1.118.
Civale made 15 starts for Cleveland last season before exiting his June 21 start against the Chicago Cubs with a finger sprain on his pitching hand. He went on the injured list for the next 2 1/2 months. He has six starts after coming back from the injury, going 2-3 with a 5.74 ERA.
Hernandez has been overshadowed by Kansas City’s quartet of pitchers who were first-round draft picks in 2018. Sunday’s starter Kris Bubic (40th pick in 2018) and Tuesday’s starter Daniel Lynch (34th) were the third and fourth of those picks. Brady Singer (18th overall) and Jackson Kowar (33rd) are starting the 2022 season in the bullpen.
Add Asa Lacy, the Royals first pick in the 2020 draft (fourth overall), and it’s easy to see why few noticed Hernandez. But after appearing in five games (three starts) in 2020, Hernandez proved that he belonged with a solid 2021 campaign. He finished 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA.
“I think he’s been throwing the ball good,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after Hernandez’ last spring training start in which he allowed four earned runs on five hits, including a home run, and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. “He wasn’t good today, but he’s been throwing the ball well. His stuff has looked right. Today, he wasn’t sharp. You throw that one away and get ready for when he gets his start.”
–Field Level Media