Epic race to first saves no-no by mere inches

April 15th, 2021

Every no-hitter has the play. It’s the one that gets shown over and over. So often that highlight is a miraculous diving catch in the outfield or an insane throw in the infield. But in the case of ’s no-hitter on Wednesday against Cleveland, it was a bang-bang play on a ground ball to first base.

“The play that led to the no-hitter,” Rodón said. “Without that play, we don't get there."

Rodón came inches away from losing his perfect game (which was still intact at the time) and his no-hitter in the White Sox’ 8-0 victory over the Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field. He had retired the previous 24 batters he faced and was perfect entering the ninth when Cleveland outfielder served a soft ground ball to first base.

It was a slow chopper off Naylor’s bat (with an exit velocity of 70.8 mph) that pulled José Abreu a few feet off the bag. As Abreu was fielding the ball, Naylor was over halfway down the line and Rodón was in no position to beat him (or Abreu, for that matter) to first base. According to Statcast, Naylor’s sprint speed was 29.3 feet per second, which shows just how badly he wanted to reach base, as his 2020 average sprint speed was 26.9 feet per second.

“You got to give credit to Naylor there, you know?” Indians catcher Roberto Pérez said. “He hustled, he tried to beat that play. We were trying to get on base.”

“He hustled down the line and I enjoy competitors,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said.

“Here it was the end of the game and that guy was competing and didn’t want his team to get no-hit. That’s the way the game is supposed to be played, and he hustled and dove into the bag. But you had another champion over there at first base that knew exactly what was at stake and made the play.”

Just as Naylor took flight, diving into first base to try to beat Abreu, the White Sox first baseman nearly over-extended his leg to stretch as far as he could to reach the base before Naylor. Abreu tumbled to the ground after his right foot made contact a split second before Naylor’s left hand swiped across the bag.

"At first, I was worried that he was going to get himself hurt,” White Sox catcher Zack Collins said of Abreu’s lunge. “Then, I mean, I knew he was going to do everything he possibly could to get that guy out. It was a hell of a play there.”

“A hell of a play,” Rodón said. “The sliding tag into first, which freaked me out because I didn't want him to blow out his knee. I was kind of concerned about that. But an unbelievable play.”

Naylor was confident that he reached safely and jumped to his feet in frustration immediately after first-base umpire Brian Knight made the out call. His hands fell to his knees as his head dropped toward the ground, knowing his efforts weren’t enough to prevent Cleveland from being no-hit for the 12th time in franchise history. But that didn’t stop the Indians from asking for the play to be reviewed, just in case the video footage proved otherwise.

“I know [it’s] something they have to call a challenge for [with] what’s going on with the game,” Collins said. “I haven’t looked at video or anything like that, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t that close.”

“I didn’t think the call was gonna be overturned,” Pérez said. “It was too close of a play. But it was nice to see Naylor hustling there and trying to get that infield single.”

After a short review, Naylor was officially ruled out, as Guaranteed Rate Field erupted in cheers. Just moments later, Rodón lost his perfect game by hitting Pérez’s front foot with a slider. But without Abreu’s play at first, he would’ve lost his no-hitter, too.

“It was great competitiveness all the way around,” La Russa said. “From our side, it’s the kind of support that Carlos had earned and deserved.”