James McCann had been so close before.
Almost five years to the day -- Aug. 26, 2015 -- Justin Verlander was three outs away from throwing his third career no-hitter. McCann, a rookie for the Tigers, was looking to catch his first no-hitter in the big leagues.
As Chris Ianetta led off the ninth for the Angels, McCann called for a fastball on a 2-2 pitch. Verlander left it in the zone and Ianetta pulled it down the left field line. It barely landed fair.
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"We hadn't been beat by a fastball all night and we threw 97 up in the zone and it got hooked down the line and almost hit chalk for a fair ball," McCann recalled.
Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, McCann got a second chance. This time, there were two outs in the ninth. Lucas Giolito was amped up on the mound and had already worked ahead to an 0-2 count on Erik Gonzalez, the only Pittsburgh Pirate to reach base on the night after a fourth inning walk.
McCann again called for a high heater. And once again, it was put in play.
102.6 miles per hour off the bat. An expected batting average of .850.
Yet, somehow it was caught was by White Sox right fielder Adam Engel to secure Giolito's first career no-hitter.
Here's how the final pitch went down from the people who lived it:
James McCann: I had flashbacks. I re-lived the pitch that we gave up the no-hitter on back in 2015. I just kept thinking to myself, every pitch is 0-2. We're not trying to steal a strike here, we're trying to make a nasty, perfect pitch, every pitch from here on out.
Lucas Giolito: We got ahead with sliders and for me, I knew McCann was going to call the high fastball, I was about ready to throw it to the backstop.
McCann: We had thrown four sliders in a row to Ozuna the at-bat before and two straight sliders to Gonzalez and my thought process was let's let a fastball rip up at the top of the zone, really up at his eyes. I really didn't want anything close to the zone and I kind of gave him a fist pump saying, 'Hey let's get it here, let's go, let's make one more pitch.'
Giolito: Unfortunately, I pull it down a little bit.
McCann: It's very similar to how I lost my no-hitter with Verlander. He threw it up, it was at the top of the zone and Gonzalez put a great swing on it.
Adam Engel: Kind of leading up to that play, as a defender, you're just really locked in and dialed in. Honestly, my mindset was just get whatever to whatever ball. As an outfielder, I'm kind of thinking like, more along the lines of balls at the wall. You kind of go from trying to protect yourself to all means necessary to catch anything. So when that ball came off the bat, it was immediately just running in and no matter, if I have to dive for this ball, or whatever I have to do just to get there and give it a good go, I'm going to do it without hesitation.
Rick Renteria: These guys work on the defensive alignment. You still have to execute the pitches to get the result that you want.
Engel: We have positioning charts and stuff so I was just playing where the chart told me to. Gonzalez is a really good hitter. I've played against him a decent amount coming up through the minor leagues and know that he drives the ball pretty well to right field so I agreed 100 percent with the positioning, so I played there.
McCann: I don't think I've held my breath like that in a really long time with a ball off the bat. It was one those that I feel bad, I didn't even want to watch it to be honest.
Engel: Right when the ball came off the bat, I broke in. It was well hit and low, so I knew I had to come in, so it was a decently easy read. So I got a good jump and just tried to run through the baseball like all the reps I have taken out there. Made the catch and it was an incredible feeling seeing Giolito just accomplish that feat man.
Giolito: Oh yeah, I owe Engy something.
McCann: Thank the Lord it went right to Engy and he made a heck of play out there to conserve that no-hitter.
Renteria: Engy had a great jump on that ball, actually. You guys have seen him. He makes it look easy and that wasn't an easy play, but he got a great jump on it and obviously was able to make the final out.
Giolito: I looked at the pitch again. It wasn't a terrible pitch, but I think that he was ready for the heater and he put a really good swing on it, but that's part of a no-hitter. There's always that one play, right?
McCann: He did it. He made his pitches. I looked out there and in his eyes I couldn't tell a difference, whether it was a ninth or the first inning.
Renteria: Wow. I just, I can't, I don't have any words. I want to cry. I'm really, really happy for him.