CHICAGO -- Even back in Spring Training, White Sox manager Rick Renteria had no doubts about Adam Engel's defensive abilities in center field. It's unlikely even Renteria saw how far -- or high -- those abilities would take Engel.The 25-year-old rookie robbed Astros catcher Brian McCann of a home run
CHICAGO -- Even back in Spring Training, White Sox manager Rick Renteria had no doubts about Adam Engel's defensive abilities in center field. It's unlikely even Renteria saw how far -- or high -- those abilities would take Engel.
The 25-year-old rookie robbed Astros catcher Brian McCann of a home run with a flying catch at the fence in right-center field to open the fourth inning Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, helping the White Sox secure an 8-5 victory.
"Man, any time you make a big catch in a game that helps your team win, they're all right up there," Engel said. "Tonight I was able to help the team win, take a run away from those guys, so it was pretty special."
Engel -- who made his Major League debut on May 26 and has been seeing regular time in center field since mid-June -- leads the White Sox in 3- or 4-star catches according to Statcast™ this season, though this is the first time his defensive efforts have resulted in robbing a home run.
Engel, who nearly robbed a Josh Donaldson home run last week before crashing into the wall, timed his jump perfectly on McCann's fly ball, which traveled 392 feet with an exit velocity of 99.3 mph according to Statcast™, and leaped high to snag the ball from going over and keep a run off Derek Holland's ledger. Engel made the grab despite a fan reaching out for the ball, with the two gloves nearly colliding.
"That's one of the greatest catches I've ever seen, to go out there and rob McCann," Holland said. "As soon as I gave it up, I thought it was gone. I really thought it was 30 rows deep when he hit it. For him to make that play was huge."
"Top one this year, and probably the top 10 [I've seen]," Renteria said. "That was a pretty good catch, a great catch.''
Engel said he was able to get a better starting position on McCann's fly ball as opposed to Donaldson's homer, giving him a better chance to make the time-sensitive play.
"I was able to get back to the fence a little quicker," Engel said. "The other night I was playing in the other gap, so I wasn't able to get to the wall in time and maneuver the wall like I wanted to and also there was a pole. Tonight I was able to get back there and work the wall."
When he got up, he didn't even realize he'd caught it. Upon realizing the ball was in his glove, he gave a hat tip to his pitcher.
"Honestly, when I went up it kind of hit me in the glove where balls will kind of squirt out, shoot out of your glove," Engel said. "I came down and I saw Avisail [Garcia]'s reaction and I was like, 'Good, it stayed in my glove.' That was pretty cool."
Engel said the route was one he'd practiced several times in both the Minors and during batting practice at Guaranteed Rate Field. Never had everthying come together quite like Tuesday night.
"I'm so far away from it, I can't imagine how Avi felt or how Adam felt, but that's going to go down as one of the best catches in a long time," White Sox catcher Kevan Smith said. "It doesn't surprise me. He's done it in the Minors a lot. He's an extremely athletic outfielder out there. It's awesome to have him out there."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.