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Gnats of the Week: Week 10

Your weekly rundown of the best worst players in baseball.

Welcome back to Gnats of the Week! It’s the series where I take everything that happened in Major League Baseball over the past week and single out the most brilliantly stupid performances to be enshrined in eternal (until next week) glory.

What is a gnat, you ask? Good question. Gnats are the little guys, the washed-up utilitymen, unheralded prospects, and unproven entities who seem to come out of nowhere to make their mark on a game. If you watch a lot of baseball (and if you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet on it), then you know that this happens pretty much every day.

These players are delightful stories, unless, of course, they’re playing your team. Then they’re the most daggum irritating thing you’ve ever seen. That’s what makes them gnats; a truly beautiful phenomenon.

This week’s gnatworking champs are a regular bunch of Jakes, Jonahs and jokers. Plus, all my homies hate Luke Williams. Let’s get to it.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Billy McKinney: 3-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R vs. Orioles on Wednesday
  • Mike Minor: 7 IP, ER, 3 H, 8 K vs. A’s on Thursday
  • Contreras Brothers (Willson & William): 5-8, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R on Tuesday

 

Third Runner-Up: Jake Fraley

6-16 (.375), HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 4 R, 1.063 OPS vs. LAA, DET & CLE

Through his first 189 plate appearances in the bigs, all with the Seattle Mariners, Jake Fraley had 11 hits. In the two weeks since he was called up on May 31, he has 10 hits — including career home runs nos. 1, 2 and 3. The latter came on Saturday night against Cleveland. But if fans take away anything from this fantastic hot streak, it will probably be what happened Wednesday night.

With the M’s clinging to a 3-3 tie in the ninth, Isaac Paredes sent a ball deep to left field that looked like, smelled like and talked like a walk-off Tigers win. But Fraley had other plans:

Hats off to Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith for that amazing call, which spawned an incredible meme:

But as we all know, there are two sides to every story. In this case the other side is the Tigers broadcast, which has an equally hilarious reaction to Fraley’s catch:

It’s the “OH NO! … Oh, no,” for me. But at any rate, Fraley wasn’t done. He followed that feat up with a one-out RBI single in the 11th, giving the Mariners a 5-4 lead that they would build into an extra-innings win. He then hit a ball to the moon on Saturday, and he added another Sunday.

That’s consistency. Welcome to the gnat club, Jake.

 

Second Runner-Up: Jonah Heim & Kolby Allard

3-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R/5.0 IP, 0 R, 4 K, W vs. Trevor Bauer, Dodgers on Saturday

It’s been a while since we had a good Dodger killer, huh? How about two? I was going to award this slot to Jonah, but in Heimsight, it was a full-battery effort. Let’s go over some fun facts about this matchup:

  • The Texas Rangers are in last place. They had lost 16 consecutive road games, tying a franchise record. That streak was put to the test on Saturday against the defending World Champions, the L.A. Dodgers, and the defending Cy Young winner, Trevor Bauer.
  • Kolby Allard, 23, grew up an hour from Dodger Stadium. He made his first-ever start against the Dodgers on Saturday with a rookie catcher behind the dish.
  • Jonah Heim, 25, is the aforementioned rookie catcher. He is a .195 career hitter with 12 hits in 75 at-bats this season entering Saturday. He’d never caught an Allard start before.

Not only did the Rangers win — with Allard throwing five shutout frames to earn the W — but they did so convincingly. The final score was 12-1, and Bauer was charged with half of those Texas runs (six total, four earned). One of them came in the form of this long and loud shot off Heim’s bat:

Heim would go on to add an eighth-inning double before coming around to score a second run. He also caught all nine innings, guiding to Allard to his best start of the season as he worked out of multiple jams. That ceremonial cowboy hat fits like a dream.

Keep fighting the good fight, boys.

 

First Runner-Up: Luke Williams

2-4, 2 RBI, walk-off HR vs. Will Smith, Braves on Wednesday

Last Saturday, Luke Williams was hitting leadoff for the U.S. national team in the 2021 Olympic qualifiers. He went 8-16 over the four-game stretch, leading a team full of current and former Major-Leaguers to secure a spot in Tokyo this summer. He went 1-5 with a run scored in the clincher.

On Tuesday, he was being called up by the Philadelphia Phillies for his Major League debut. He bunted for a pinch-hit single in his first career at-bat.

On Wednesday, he earned his first-ever start in centerfield. He hit a double in his third career at-bat. Then, with his team trailing 1-0 against Braves closer Will Smith in the ninth, he etched his name into Philadelphia lore with one swing.

According to @MLBStats, Williams is the sixth player in the past two decades to go deep for a walk-off in his first career start, and the first Phillie to do it in, well, ever. Here’s Jomboy’s breakdown of the whole shebang, in case you missed it:

He also gave us a wonderfully candid postgame interview with no shortage of tears talking about his family. It’s enough to even warm the heart of a bitter old Braves fan like myself:

Not a bad week at all, I’d say.

 

GNAT OF THE WEEK: Bobby Bradley

7-14 (.500), 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1.634 OPS vs. BAL, STL & SEA

What do you do when you get your first big league opportunity in two years after mashing in AA, mashing in AAA and mashing in spring training? You mash. That’s what Bobby Bradley does, and now he’s doing it for the Cleveland Indians.

After inexplicably being left off the Opening Day roster to save a roster spot for Jake Bauers, Bradley finally got the call last weekend. All he’s done since than is lead all Major League hitters in OPS (min. 16 PA). He recorded a double in his first at-bat of the season, then went a cool 3-4 with a homer, a double and three RBIs in his first start on Monday.

He added this homer on Friday, a 7-0 win for the Tribe:

And after the game, he further endeared himself to fans with a little bobblehead modeling:

Since Bradley’s call-up, for what it’s worth, Cleveland has won four of five games. He scored the game-tying run in last night’s 5-4 victory, denying a win for Fraley and the Mariners. It’s gnat v. gnat! I don’t know how to process this situation! What do we do??

Oh right. We keep mashing. Thanks, Bobby.

(Photos by Gerry Angus, Leslie Plaza Johnson & Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Wynn McDonald

Born a Kentuckian, much like Dan Uggla. Braves fan by choice, unlike Dan Uggla. I enjoy long walks on the Brandon Beachy. @twynstagram

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