Kwan’s brilliance highlights Cleveland’s historic extra-inning streak 

4:38 AM UTC

HOUSTON — We have no idea how the rest of the Guardians’ season will go, but we at least know that the start has been historic.

This isn’t just because the team picked up the most victories in its first 23 games in franchise history. It’s not just because it’s doing this all under a first-time manager. But now, the Guardians can say they played in four consecutive extra-inning games for the first time in exactly 114 years .. and did so with a leadoff hitter who is on a historic pace.

The Guardians experienced free baseball twice in Atlanta on Saturday and Sunday, dropping one and winning the other. After an off-day on Monday, the team fell in the 10th inning to the Astros. It was only fitting that Cleveland got back in the win column in another extra-inning battle on Wednesday with a 3-2 victory over Houston. This tied the team’s record for most consecutive extra-inning games played, as the last time came on May 1-5, 1910.

“These are two tough teams we’ve played the last week and it’s not a surprise that we’re playing close games,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said “It’s not a surprise that they’re going down to the end.”

Guardians players and coaches joked about how tiring – both physically and mentally – the last few games have been. The bullpen has taken on a hefty load, even after Triston McKenzie spelled them for seven innings on Wednesday, and they have to wait until May 16 for the next off-day. But with the Guardians’ scrappy nature, they know that these types of games are inevitable.

In these moments, it’s critical to have a backbone to lean on. Usually, that player is José Ramírez. Often, it can also be Josh Naylor. But during this first month of the season, no one has been more consistent than Steven Kwan.

Aside from McKenzie’s critical seven-inning outing, Kwan was the story of the night. He not only had an RBI triple earlier in the game, but he also was responsible for the game-winning run on an RBI double to left in the top of the 10th inning and the game-saving diving play in the bottom half of the frame.

With one out and the automatic runner at second, Maurico Dubón sent a soft line drive into the left-center-field gap that Kwan laid out for, caught, and was able to throw to second base to double up the runner, who assumed it was going to find grass and headed home.

“There’s gold out there for a reason,” Vogt said. “I mean, It’s beautiful.”

His offense has been even better. Here’s where we get into the history books again. Kwan has become the fifth player in franchise history to have at least seven three-hit games within the team’s first 30 contests, joining Lyn Lary (10 games, 1937), Freddy Spurgeon (seven, 1926), Tris Speaker (seven, 1922) and Nap Lajoie (eight, 1904).

“I remember talking to [Kwan] early in the winter and he was already focused,” Vogt said. “He put in the work this winter and he’s seeing the fruits of that right now and he’s going to hopefully continue that.”

Kwan took the Majors by storm in his rookie season in ‘22. Last year, he ran into some sophomore struggles. He learned the importance of compartmentalizing each at-bat by getting into routines that he’s built and that’s led to him having the most hits (45) and the best batting average (.360) in the American League.

“I think last year I kind of rode that rollercoaster of like, ‘Oh, I’m doing well, I got to do this,’ and ‘I’m doing bad, I got to break out of this,’ Kwan said. “Like just trying to take it one at-bat at a time and one day at a time is really helping.”

There’s no crystal ball to tell us whether this style of play will be sustainable for the Guardians or if Kwan will still be atop the AL hit leaderboard come September. But for now, the club is enjoying this historic start with one of the best hitters in the game at the top of the order.

“It’s unbelievable,” McKenzie said. “I think [Kwan] tries to downplay it as much as he can, but I think being able to watch him be a homer away from the cycle tonight, make a diving play in extra innings … that’s the same person he is every day. So being able to watch it from the outside is great.”