2:16 AM UTC
CINCINNATI — Steven Kwan continues to make Major League history in his rookie season, and on Tuesday that historic run spoiled a day of pageantry for the Reds.
The Guardians outfielder reached base three more times and made a key play in the outfield as the Guardians erupted for six runs in the ninth to win their third straight, 10-5, in Cincinnati’s home opener at Great American Ball Park.
The two teams were deadlocked heading into the final inning, but Andres Gimenez snapped a 4-4 tie in the ninth with a two-run homer and Jose Ramirez broke the game open off Daniel Duarte with his third career grand slam.
The day began with Cincinnati Bengals superstar quarterback Joe Burrow throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase presenting the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year award to Reds second baseman Jonathan India. Then all of them watched Kwan continue his torrid start.
Kwan has turned heads throughout the realms of baseball with his offensive performance this season. With another game in the books after the Guardians’ win over the Reds, nothing has changed.
Cleveland’s fifth-round pick out of Oregon State from the 2018 MLB Draft has yet to swing and miss at the plate through his first five games at the Major League level, maintaining a professional streak that goes back to his time as a member of the Guardians’ Triple-A affiliate in September 2021.
“It’s been awesome,” Kwan said of Cleveland’s third straight win Tuesday. “It kind of reminds me of a college team. We went down a little bit. Nobody thought we were going to lose it. Maybe we had a little low patch, but everybody kept staying up. Coaches were good. Players on the bench were still energetic. It was kind of cool seeing everybody locked in still, and obviously it worked out in our favor.”
Including 2022 Cactus League play, Kwan has not struck out since Sept. 26, 2021, with Triple-A Columbus, a span of 76 plate appearances between strikeouts. In reaching base three more times Tuesday, Kwan has reached base 18 times in his first five games, surpassing the old record of 17 by Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce in 2008.
Kwan now has a .750 on-base percentage to start the year, having reached safely in 18 of his first 24 plate appearances, a record for the most times on base through a player’s first five games since at least 1901. He has seen 115 pitches without a swing and miss, which is the longest streak among players to debut since 2000, per Elias Sports Bureau. The previous best was 100 pitches by David Fletcher.
Kwan started Tuesday’s game with a walk, narrowly avoiding a whiff after getting caught in between on a called strike during his first plate appearance.
“Oh yeah, I swung and missed but I guess [home-plate umpire Larry Vanover] called it a strike,” Kwan admitted. “I thought that counted as a swing-and-miss, but I didn’t know.”
Up with the bases loaded for his second plate appearance, the diminutive outfielder drove in a run with a sacrifice fly on a sliding fielding play made by Reds left fielder Tommy Pham, maintaining a theme of productivity that has been in place for the beginning of his career.
“I think that starts with the coaches back in [Spring Training] that helped me revamp my swing, keep my head still, keeping myself in a good spot to attack balls,” Kwan said. “Just a lot of people putting their two cents in and being able to help me with my career.”
In the top of the fifth inning, Kwan served a single to left field, tallying yet another hit. In the top of the seventh, he grounded out before drawing his second walk of the game in the top of the ninth.
“He’s OK that way,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s a good kid. He’s got his head screwed on tight. Actually, I went and checked some of his interviews because I wanted to see them. He talked about his mom and dad. We do a lot. We talk to the player development people in Spring Training. They were all pretty high on his ability to be a good kid.”
In that ninth, Kwan fouled off several pitches before working a key walk, setting up a bases-loaded scenario for Ramirez, who then launched the game-clinching grand slam.
“I thought Kwan’s at-bat before [Ramirez] was as good as you’re going to get,” Francona beamed.
One of three prospects in Cleveland’s Top 30 per MLB Pipeline to break camp with the team, Kwan was swiftly moved up to the two-hole from the eighth spot after getting on base three times versus Zack Greinke on Opening Day and has not looked back since.
With the sellout crowd of 43,036 roaring after the Reds had tied the game at 4 in the sixth, Kwan in the eighth inning flashed his defense by doubling up Kyle Farmer at first base with a one-hop strike to first baseman Owen Miller.
“My brother always told me that defense never slumps,” Kwan said. “I pride myself on being able to impact the game like that.”