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Jun 27, 2024 3:15 am

Guardians hope to start new streak vs. Royals

steven kwan

The Cleveland Guardians, their seven-game winning streak over, will look to get back on track when they open a four-game road series against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

As recently as June 8, first-place Cleveland led second-place Kansas City by just three games in the American League Central, but as the Royals stumbled to a 5-12 mark, the Guardians won 10 of 15.

Cleveland’s seven-victory run ended with a 4-2 defeat to the host Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, but the Guardians’ lead is now eight games over the Minnesota Twins, nine over the Royals.

The Guardians’ high-performing offense is sparked by leadoff hitter Steven Kwan, who reaches base at a .436 clip. The club is 33-19 with Kwan in the lineup.

After scoring 4.1 runs per game in 2023 — fourth worst in the majors — the Guardians have improved to MLB’s third-most productive offense at 5.1 runs per game.

Putting the ball in play has been key as the Guardians boast the third lowest strikeout total in the majors.

Kwan again leads the way with just 16 strikeouts in 235 plate appearances. Prior to missing 23 games due to a left hamstring injury, he enjoyed a stretch of 74 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout.

Leading the AL in hitting at .353 before sustaining his injury May 4, Kwan returned with a vengeance May 31, delivering a three-hit game. He has hit safely in 18 of 20 games since coming off the injured list, batting .418 in that span to raise his season mark to .377.

“It goes back to routines,” Kwan said, according to Cleveland.com. “No matter what happens the day before, just doing the same thing every day, day in and day out. Sticking to a routine that I trust and just executing.”

Cleveland right-hander Tanner Bibee’s explanation was simpler.

“Dude’s a robot,” Bibee said. “The guy’s missed three to four weeks and he just comes in and is like hit, hit, hit.”

The Guardians will send right-hander Ben Lively (7-3, 3.03 ERA) to the mound on Thursday to oppose Royals right-hander Michael Wacha (4-6, 4.07).

Lively won his only previous outing against Kansas City despite allowing 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings while pitching for the Cincinnati Reds on June 14, 2023. MJ Melendez and Bobby Witt Jr. each hit a pair of singles against him.

Lively has won six of his past seven starts and has yielded more than three runs in just one of 12 starts this season.

In three career starts against Cleveland, Wacha is 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA. Pitching for the San Diego Padres on June 14, 2023, he earned a victory with 6 2/3 scoreless innings vs. the Guardians.

Wacha spent three weeks on the IL due to a broken left foot before returning to face the Texas Rangers on Saturday. He lost despite allowing just one run in five innings.

During the Royals’ 5-12 slide, the club has scored just 48 runs while getting shut out three times.

Kansas City broke out in the eighth inning on Wednesday, scoring five runs to emerge with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Marlins. The Royals took two of three against Miami after dropping each of their previous four series.

A triple by Witt sparked the eighth-inning rally.

“Just trying to spark something,” Witt said, according to MLB.com. “… We were maybe in a little — whatever it was, but now we’re back playing some ball. Doing our thing.”

–Field Level Media

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