Every Sunday, The Trailing Runner recaps the past week’s biggest headlines and most exciting performances. On Mondays, keep an eye out for The Leadoff which breaks down the week ahead.
Steven Kwan Hits All Week
The Cleveland Guardians – not quite the prototypical slugging offense – steamrolled the Kansas City Royals, pouring on 17 runs on 22 hits. Rookie Steven Kwan led the way, going five for five. Kwan, whose debut flew under the radar amidst blue-chip prospects like Bobby Witt Jr. and Julio Rodríguez, was just getting started, producing headline after headline throughout the week.
Following his five-hit day, he turned in another productive performance the next night to become the first player in MLB history to reach base 15 times in his first four games. His newfound stardom only continued to surge the next day as the baseball world collectively realized he had gone 115 pitches without a swing and miss – the longest such streak to begin a career since at least 2000.
Although the streak came to an end the following game at 116 pitches, Kwan’s fantastic start to the year, all while disregarding the modal all-or-nothing approach of the modern game, has enthralled fans across the league.
Jackie Robinson and Alyssa Nakken
Friday was Jackie Robinson Day, and the league, teams, and players come together to honor baseball’s greatest pioneer. Every April 15, the sport remembers April 15th, 1947, when Robinson entered a game for the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first Black player in Major League Baseball.
As has become customary in recent years, every player wore the number 42 for the day – the only time Robinson’s number, which has been universally retired, will ever be worn. As this year marked the 75th anniversary of his historic debut, the back of every jersey not only matched Robinson’s in number but, for the first time, in style and color as well. Several players also committed to donating their day’s salary to the Players’ Alliance, a non-profit that aims to improve the representation of Black Americans at all levels of baseball.
Earlier in the week, the game found its newest pioneer. Alyssa Nakken became the first woman to coach on-field in a regular-season game when she entered in the third innings as the Giants’ first base coach. Nakken, normally an assistant coach specializing in outfield defense, was called upon after starting (?) first base coach Antoan Richardson was ejected. The helmet she wore on-field will be joining the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Kershaw Toes Perfection, Vlad Jr. Rakes, and Rookies Shine
- On Wednesday, veteran Clayton Kershaw made his season debut in spectacular fashion, striking out 13 Twins en route to seven perfect innings. Baseball Twitter went ballistic when Kershaw was pulled after just 80 pitches with the perfect game intact, but the 34-year-old star was quick to dispel the controversy, saying he and manager Dave Roberts had discussed the situation in the inning prior.
- Also on Wednesday, the story of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s night seemed to be an almost-disastrous injury after his hand was spiked in the second inning. However, the young slugger quickly turned that on its head, hitting three home runs – two off of Gerrit Cole – and a double as the Blue Jays beat the Yankees. It was the second three-home run performance of Guerrero’s career, and the 22-year-old became the second-youngest player in history to record two such games.
- In addition to Kwan’s historic start, rookies continue to impress across the league. Seiya Suzuki, signed away from the NPL in the offseason, is slashing .368/.500/.895 through his first seven games with three home runs, including two vs. the Pirates on Tuesday. Hunter Greene, the rookie flamethrower for the Reds, threw 39 pitches over 100 MPH on Friday night vs. the Dodgers, the most ever in a single start.
Around the League
- The Blue Jays and Yankees sit atop the AL East, both at 5-4. The White Sox are the best team in the American League and lead the Central at 6-2. The Astros lead the West at 5-3.
- The Mets pace the NL East at 6-3. The Cardinals are atop the Central at 5-2. The Rockies, Dodgers, and Giants are all 6-2 in the West.
- José Ramírez and Owen Miller, both of the Cleveland Guardians, lead hitters with 1.0 fWAR.
- Carlos Rodón of the Giants and Kevin Gausman of the Blue Jays pace pitchers with 0.7 fWAR.
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)