Welcome back to Gnats of the Week! It’s the series where I pick the most clutch, influential and unexpected performances by under-the-radar MLB players in the past week. You won’t see Ronald Acuña Jr. or Jacob deGrom on this list—unless they’re on the opposition. You won’t even see Joey Gallo. Only the truly mediocre qualify, and the more anonymous the better.
What is a gnat? Simply put, they’re irritants. You know the type: little-known rookies and overlooked veterans who come out of nowhere to torment your team on a given night. Think of Steve Pearce erupting against the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, or Pat Borders, who won fall classic MVP in 1992 after producing negative WAR the year before. It’s all about the unexpected.
These players are delightful stories—unless of course, they’re playing your team. Then they’re the most daggum annoying thing you’ve ever seen. That’s just the way of things.
This week in the gnat race, it’s time to celebrate some incredible debuts and a potentially elite comedy duo in the making. Enjoy!
- Frank Schwindel: 3-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R vs. Jesús Luzardo, Marlins on Friday
- Brent Rooker: 4-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R vs. Shane McClanahan, Rays on Friday
- Jace Peterson/Luis Urías: 10-11 (!!), 3 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R (!!!) vs. Cubs on Thursday
Third Runner-Up: Lewis Brinson
6-12, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R, 1.788 OPS vs. Padres this week
How do you respond after becoming the unintended focus of a 24-hour scandal involving a racial slur, which you didn’t even hear, and later turns out to be something else that’s entirely less serious and entirely more stupid? If you’re Lewis Brinson, the answer is surprisingly simple: have the best week of your career.
Ever since the infamous incident in Colorado on Sunday, Brinson has been raking. He recorded five hits in that series, then turned around and added six more against the Padres this week, including three home runs, six RBIs, and a 1.788 OPS over three days. For someone whose career OPS is still sub-.600 through four major league seasons, that’s not too shabby. Maybe he needs to get angry more often!
Still, I feel a little bad for Ryan Weathers. Before Wednesday, Brinson had hit a total of eight home runs since 2018. So I’m guessing he wasn’t counting on this reception:
2 ABs, 2 💣s for @LewisBrinson. pic.twitter.com/W37NrtpD5n
— MLB (@MLB) August 11, 2021
Over his last 12 games, Brinson is now hitting .386/.438/.773 with a 1.210 OPS. There’s only one thing holding him back at this point…
The only thing that can slow down Lewis Brinson right now is Lewis Brinson pic.twitter.com/qxxUTcnFIJ
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) August 14, 2021
“Who put that bat there??”
Second Runner-Up: Ernie Clement & Yu Chang
4-7, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R vs. Tigers on Friday
Full disclosure: lumping these two together may be a stretch. But until recently I had never heard of either of them, and I live in Ohio. More importantly, they’re both 25-year-old call-ups, and they nearly single-handedly defeated the Tigers on Friday using power that no one knew either of them had. Also, I personally think that “Ernie & Chang” sounds like the name of an absolutely killer comedy duo. So they’ve got that going for them.
Maybe Tyler Alexander and the Tigers were distracted by that possibility as well because they simply couldn’t get these guys out. Clement got things going early with this shot to right, the first of his big league career:
Ernie Clement goes the other way for his first @MLB homer. pic.twitter.com/S9dewUfs64
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 13, 2021
One inning later, Chang — a seldom-used utility man who was called up from Triple-A that afternoon — ripped an RBI triple. Then in his next at-bat, he deposited a ball deep to left for the fourth homer of his three-year MLB career:
Yu Chang hits a solo shot after a triple earlier. pic.twitter.com/rJhe9mqhfn
— Justin Groc (@jgroc) August 14, 2021
But not to be outdone, Clement followed that up with career bomb no. 2 on the first pitch of the seventh:
Ernie Clement is 498 home runs away from 500.#OurCLE pic.twitter.com/WRaioAKzzh
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) August 14, 2021
Why is this so crazy, you ask? Aside from the rarity of hitting your first two Major League homers in one game, there’s also the small detail that Clement hit a total of three longballs in his entire minor league career, over 1,000 at-bats. That’s the guy that teed off on the Tigers on Friday. And the fact that he got to do it in concert with his future comedy partner’s big night makes it all the more special!
First Runner-Up: Yohel Pozo
2-4, HR, 3 RBI vs. A’s on Friday (MLB Debut)
Yohel! Pozo! Say it with me! Yohel! POZO! Was there ever a name more destined for stardom?
Not a lot has gone well for the Texas Rangers this season, but the future is bright. Pozo is the latest young player to get an opportunity with the big league club this season, and after hitting .337 with 19 homers at Triple-A Round Rock this year, he certainly earned it. What’s more, he rewarded that faith with an explosive two-hit debut on Friday. Check out the joy after this second-inning single, hit on the first pitch he saw as a Major Leaguer:
Congrats to Yohel Pozo on his 1st Major League Hit 👏 pic.twitter.com/KfNDkUd5VB
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) August 14, 2021
But as cool as that moment was, it’s not why he’s here. I’m talking about his career third plate appearance, which came in the sixth inning with the Rangers trailing 4-3. Again, he only needed one pitch — and when he returned to the dugout, they were no longer trailing.
And for his first @MLB homer, Pozo DRILLS a go-ahead three-run shot off the pole. pic.twitter.com/li4ppu1B4j
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 14, 2021
The Rangers would go on to win by a two-run margin, 8-6, meaning that the A’s officially became the first MLB team to “get Pozo’d.” Yes, I’m certain that this phrase will catch on soon.
GNAT OF THE WEEK: Tyler Gilbert
9.0 IP, SHO, 5 K, NO-HITTER vs. Padres on Saturday (first MLB start)
This was an easy call, but I have some more confessing to do: of all the Gilberts in Major League Baseball, I thought Tyler was simply one of them. I was wrong. He is the alpha Gilbert, and after last night’s spectacular show, this should never again be questioned.
There’s really not much that hasn’t already been said about it at this point, but throwing a no-hitter in your first career start is an absolutely absurd accomplishment. I mean, any time you can join Bumpus and Bobo, you know you’re in elite company. Throw in the fact that it came against the Padres, one of the league’s premier offenses (even without Fernando Tatis Jr.), and it’s simply absurd-er. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to catch up on every out you might have missed from this incredible game:
But of course, the true star of the night was Mr. Gilbert Sr.:
Tyler Gilbert's dad had an amazing reaction to his son's no-hitter. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/11MGrvvLIF
— MLB (@MLB) August 15, 2021
Gotta love it. Other Gilberts, beware — there’s a new gnat in town!
Photos by Gerry Angus, Leslie Plaza Johnson & Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)