DETROIT -- James McCann will never get his priorities mixed. He will always take calling a well-pitched game over hitting a home run. But he isn't giving back his three homers over the Tigers' past five games, either.
Without McCann's two-run shot Tuesday, the Tigers would've squandered Matt Boyd's six innings of one-hit ball, rather than pull out the 2-1 win over the Twins. Even as well as Boyd and McCann worked together in taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, they had to capitalize on one of the rare mistakes Twins lefty Hector Santiago made.
"He was aggressive," Santiago said of McCann. "I think they all were today. I just wound up leaving one in the middle of the plate."
It was a first-pitch sinker that had a little elevation. It was the type of pitch McCann has trained himself to convert.
"Just being aggressive to pitches in the zone that I can handle," McCann said of his approach. "If you look at the hitters across the league that have had success for a long time, they don't miss their pitches. They're aggressive to their pitch that they can handle, and when it's there, they don't miss it. That's something I've talked with several veteran guys here. Whether it's the first pitch or the 10th pitch of the at-bat, you have to be ready for your pitch in your spot."
He did more than that. He also had a hard-hit line drive to right field and a flyout to center. All of them qualified on Statcast™ as "barrels," balls that normally -- based on exit velocity and launch angle -- lead to a .500 batting average or better and 1.500 slugging percentage or better.
To put that into context, just four Tigers have "barreled" three balls in one game in the Statcast™ era: Jose Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Jefry Marte. McCann is averaging just less than 93 mph exit velocity on balls he has put in play this season, five mph above the Major League average.
The Tigers have a history of solid hitting catchers, from Mickey Cochrane to Bill Freehan to Lance Parrish to Ivan Rodriguez, and McCann is the first to hit three home runs in the Tigers' first seven games of a season, according to Baseball-Reference. All three have come at Comerica Park on this season-opening homestand, which is now at five games with two to go. Two of those homers came on the first pitch, a pitch on which he had three home runs total in his first two Major League seasons.
This comes despite what manager Brad Ausmus calls a focus on a quicker swing.
"He has made an adjustment," Ausmus said. "He's shortened his stroke a bit, especially with two strikes, and he's hit a couple big home runs for us."
McCann doesn't want to complicate it.
"Honestly, my approach is to get a pitch I can handle and put a good swing on it, try to keep it as simple as possible," he said. "Like I said all spring, get a quality at-bat every time I step in the box. Now, obviously, the results won't always be there, but [I want to] be a presence at the bottom of our lineup that can turn it over to [Ian] Kinsler at the top."