Unlike last week, Adam Engel had an opportunity to “work the wall” on Tuesday night and he wound up with a candidate for catch of the year.
A strong defender, the White Sox outfielder turned in his best play of the season when he used his foot to boost himself into the air to rob Brian McCann of a home run. The play was the biggest highlight of an 8-5 White Sox victory over the Houston Astros and one of the top catches manager Rick Renteria said he’s seen in his career. Engel also singled and drove in a run as the White Sox snapped a six-game losing streak.
“It was outstanding,” Renteria said. “The catch that Engel made was probably … top one. Great catch, went up the wall, brought it back.
“I think top one this year. And probably a top 10, if you had to say, it’s got to be up there. That’s a pretty good catch. That’s a great catch.”
The White Sox held a 6-3 advantage in the top of the fourth inning when McCann stepped in against starting pitcher Derek Holland. Holland (three earned runs over 5 2/3 innings) thought McCann’s drive on 1-1 knuckle curve would wind up 30 rows deep off the bat. But Engel had a bead on the drive the entire way and pushed off the wall with his left foot, soaring with his arm outstretched to haul the ball in for the out.
“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 for sure it was gone.”
Engel in the Outfield. pic.twitter.com/0U4FyV1QV7— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 9, 2017
Engel’s most recent encounter with the wall let him know he had a chance at that play and — perhaps more important — that he was clear for takeoff. The rookie tried to track down a Josh Donaldson homer in the first inning of a July 31 contest only to have a full-speed collision with the fence post that prevented him from playing the next day.
Whereas he was shaded toward left-center on the Donaldson homer, Engel was more straight up for McCann and therefore knew he had a shot.
“I think 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.”
The only thing that Engel didn’t know was if he had hung onto the ball. Engel said it hit in a part of the glove that allows the ball to shoot out on occasion. But Engel knew he’d held on when Avisail Garcia threw both his arms up in celebration of the grab.
Back behind the plate, catcher Kevan Smith — who doubled, homered, walked twice and had four RBIs — watched the entire play unfold. He saw the reactions of Holland and Garcia as well as everyone on the bench. Smith enjoyed his perspective of the play and also wasn’t surprised by it having seen Engel, a plus-defender, make similar grabs over the years.
“If you took a second, you saw every player with their hands up — and the whole bench,” Smith said. “It was a pretty cool feeling on my end, so far away from it. I can't imagine how Avi felt or how Adam felt. But that is going to go down as one of the best catches in a long time. But it doesn't surprise me. I've seen him do it in the minors. He's done that a lot.”