DETROIT - Heading into the first home series of the season, the Detroit Tigers were desperately searching for offense, and when they needed it most, the rookie with a flair for the dramatic delivered.
Christin Stewart was struggling as much as any Tigers hitter before returning to Comerica Park for a series against the Kansas City Royals. After hitting a game-winning home run on Opening Day in Toronto, Stewart went 0-18 in the next six games against the Blue Jays and New York Yankees.
When he stepped to the plate Thursday in Detroit he was sporting a .045 batting average and a .367 OPS. Even though he's an unproven player at the MLB level, nobody expected Stewart to get off to a 1-22 start.
He turned the tide this weekend, though, picking up five hits in 10 at-bats and driving in seven runs. He leads the team in RBI by a landslide with 10 -- Niko Goodrum is the closest with three RBI -- and is second to Goodrum in extra-base hits.
Stewart has two home runs this season. The rest of the roster combined has one. He's been a much-needed source of extra-base power and is producing runs while other established MLB hitters, such as Miguel Cabrera and Josh Harrison, struggle to get into a rhythm.
Even though he appeared in 17 games late last season, Stewart is getting his first true taste of being an everyday player in the big leagues this year. He bailed out a dormant Tigers offense on Opening Day, blasting a no-doubt two-run homer in the 10th inning of a scoreless tie to lift the team over the Blue Jays.
After a six-game drought, which was so glaring only because it came at the beginning of the season, Stewart had a nice home opener in Detroit, breaking his hitless streak with a double and delivering what would end up being the game-winning RBI on a sac fly.
The situation was even more dramatic Saturday when Stewart came through once again. After surrendering the lead and falling behind 4-2, the Tigers were in deep trouble with only nine outs remaining and an offense that was still struggling.
Stewart came up with the Tigers down a run. The bases were loaded with two outs. He got a 2-2 change-up from Kevin McCarthy and uncorked a 389-blast into the right field bleachers. His first career grand slam earned the Tigers another victory.
He couldn't top a game-winning grand slam in the series finale, but Stewart had another excellent game, delivering an RBI triple in the second inning and an RBI single in the sixth inning. Those were the team's only two RBI of the game (Gordan Beckham drove in a run by grounding into a double play), so Stewart was the offensive hero for the second day in a row.
The rookie only has six hits this season, but five of them have gone for extra bases and four have delivered runs. Only Goodrum and Nicholas Castellanos have a higher OPS than Stewart despite his six-game hitless streak.
So far, Stewart has only shown flashes of what make him one of the organization's top offensive prospects. He clearly has a flair for the dramatic, though, and if he can sprinkle a few more hits between game-winners, Stewart will be a true offensive threat for the Tigers.
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