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Steven Kwan homers, takes over as majors’ leading hitter as Guardians roll over White Sox 8-4

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CLEVELAND (AP) — All-Star Steven Kwan homered, went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and officially took over as the majors’ leading hitter while sending the Cleveland Guardians to an 8-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

Kwan connected for his eighth homer leading off the third inning against Justin Anderson as the AL Central-leading Guardians took two of three in the series and improved baseball’s best home record to 28-10.

Although his average has been over .350 for most of the season — he recently flirted with .400 — Kwan didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the MLB lead after missing a month with a hamstring injury.

He’s now batting .367 — 48 points ahead of Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is second and played Thursday night. Kwan also has 12 three-hit games, the most in the AL.

“It’s really cool,” Kwan said when asked about being the game’s leading hitter. “It’s a bigger indicator that the injury’s kind of behind now. That was a big thing. That was kind of not my identity, but that was definitely a big thing on my mind.

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

On Wednesday, the 26-year-old Kwan was named an All-Star starter for the first time. In the series finale, he also drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk.

Guardians manager Stephen Vogt has run out of superlatives to describe his left fielder

“Kwannie just continues to dazzle,” Vogt said.

Josh Naylor, Bo Naylor and Andrés Giménez drove in two runs apiece for Cleveland.

Ben Lively (8-4) limited the White Sox to three runs and six hits in six innings. The right-hander, whose signing as a free agent in December barely made a ripple, is 5-0 in six starts at Progressive Field.

He’s the first Cleveland starter to win five consecutive home starts since Corey Kluber in 2016.

Lively, who spent three years pitching in Korea, has allowed three runs or less in 13 of his 14 starts. He entered the season with just eight wins.

When he signed, the Guardians told him to expect to pitch in long relief. He has taken the starter’s role and run with it.

“I could have been here for two weeks,” he said. “It’s just the way it goes. I just don’t want to look back.”

Paul DeJong hit a two-run homer and Lenyn Sosa a solo shot for the White Sox, who lost their ninth consecutive road series and fell to 25-64 —- 31 games behind Cleveland.

Kwan opened the third with a towering shot into the right-field seats. He hit just 11 homers combined in his first two seasons, but has focused on pulling inside pitches.

The Guardians tacked on three more runs in the third against Anderson as manager Pedro Grifol went with a bullpen game in the series finale.

Kwan, who has been in a bit of a slump lately (he came in 5 for 28 in his last seven games), singled in his first at-bat. The Guardians threatened to have a big first inning against Sox starter Jared Shuster (1-1) but only scored once on Josh Naylor’s RBI single.

TRAINER’S ROOM

White Sox: RHP Mike Clevinger will make a rehab start on Friday for Triple-A Charlotte. Clevinger was initially sidelined by right elbow issue before his neck flared up. Barring a setback, he’s expected to rejoin the rotation next week.

Guardians: Reliever Nick Sandlin (back inflammation) was activated from the injured list, giving manager Stephen Vogt back one of his key bullpen pieces. He gave up a homer in the ninth. To make roster space, right-hander Eli Morgan was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. … OF Will Brennan (rib cage inflammation) remains sidelined with an injury that wasn’t expected to keep him out long.

UP NEXT

White Sox: Head to Miami for a three-game series with RHP Drew Thorpe (2-1, 4.43 ERA) starting the opener.

Guardians: RHP Tanner Bibee (7-2, 3.47) starts the opener of a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants, who have won 13 of 15 against Cleveland since the start of the 2021 season.

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

By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

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