Guardians' All-Star Steven Kwan moves to No. 1 in majors with a .367 average


CLEVELAND — Steven Kwan isn’t just at the top of Cleveland’s lineup. He’s No. 1 in the majors.

The All-Star left fielder is officially baseball’s leading hitter, and on Saturday he homered, collected another three-hit game and drove in two runs in the Guardians’ 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox.

While he’s been hitting over .350 for much of the season, Kwan didn’t have enough plate appearances to rank on the MLB leader board after missing a month with a hamstring injury.

He qualifies now and his .367 average is 48 points ahead of Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani (.319) for the major league lead.

After collecting his 12th three-hit game, Kwan, who was named to his first All-Star team on Wednesday, handled moving into the MLB lead with same calm and control he shows at the plate.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “It’s a bigger indicator that the injury’s kind of behind me now. That was a big thing. That was kind of not my identity, but that was definitely a big thing on my mind, kind of seeing the injury happen, going through the rehab process and then being able to come back from that.

“It’s nice to see there’s some space between me and the injury.”

The 27-year-old Kwan hit .268 a year ago — a 30-point drop from his rookie season — and spent the offseason fine-tuning his mechanics while looking to add more power.

He has not only become a more disciplined hitter, but he’s already surpassed his career high in homers and he’s spraying the ball to all fields.

Kwan has spent the past three months tormenting pitchers and managers.

“He’s a pain in the (butt),” Toronto manager John Schneider said. “I feel like he hits every inning against us, too. He’s pretty damn good.”

From the leadoff spot, Kwan has set the tone for the Guardians all season, and he’s one of the big reasons they’ve had control of the AL Central since early April.

If he’s not starting the game by slapping a single to left field, Kwan is making life miserable on the opposing starter by working the count. On Tuesday, he led off the first by fouling off eight pitches in a 12-pitch at-bat against Chicago’s Chris Flexen, who retired Kwan on a fly to center field.

Kwan’s teammates marvel at his hand-eye coordination and artistry with the bat.

“It’s super special,” catcher Bo Naylor said. “I get to see from a closer space than most. Just the kind of preparation that he puts in day in and day out. He’s just so disciplined with his work, so it doesn’t shock me at all the kind of results that he’s getting in game just because of how much he prioritizes himself, his mindset and the preparation that’s needed in order to go out there and compete.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb



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