In Game 2 of the twin bill against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox pulled off something they haven't done since 1994: a triple play. In the top of the fourth inning, down 2-1, Erik Bedard gave up consecutive singles to B.J. Upton and former Red Sox Casey Kotchman (remember that?) to open the inning. Then, almost instinctively, I looked up from my game of Erotic Photo Hunt as Sean Rodriguez hit a 1-0 Bedard offering to third base.
Jed Lowrie scooped the rolling sphere, took a step and a shuffle to his right and touched third for out number one. He quickly pivoted ever so slightly towards second where he whips the ball to an impatient Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia grabs the ball for out two and in one fluid motion takes one step backwards, plants, leaps and uncorks "Laser Show's" cousin, "Cannon Show". As Rodriguez strides closer to first, Adrian Gonzalez reaches out and to his right and snatches the ball from the air just before the runner touches the bag and the ump pumps an enthusiastic, "yer outta there!" Some say the home run is the most exciting play in baseball, some say it is the triple, some say it is the leaping catch over the wall, but after seeing this play live last night, I have to say it is the triple play.
When rare events happen in baseball, I like to look back through history and pull out some interesting facts relating to the event. These are some that I liked (courtesy oftripleplays.sabr.org):
- I have already mentioned that the last Red Sox triple play occurred in 1994. On Friday July 8, the Sox faced the Mariners. In the top of the sixth inning, lefty Chris Nabholz gave up a Mike Blowers single and Keith Mitchell walk to open the inning. Then Marc Newfield smashed a line drive that was caught by short stop John Valentin for out one. Valentin stepped on second to retire Blowers and then chased down Mitchell for the third out and an unassisted triple play (because Valentin recorded all the outs on his own). It was the tenth such occurrence at the time (there have now been 15 with the most recent by Eric Bruntlett of the Phillies in 2009) and it is the only time the Red Sox have ever recorded an unassisted triple play (though they were on the receiving end of the first in 1909).
- Lowrie's triple play (or is it Bedard's? who do we assign this to?) was also pretty rare within the scope of triple plays. It was just the 60th "around the horn" triple play. This means that the play went 5-4-3, or third baseman to second baseman to first baseman. The Red Sox had never turned an "around the horn" triple play, but were on the receiving end of 4.
- 2 of those 4 "around the horn" triple plays? Ya, they came on the same day, July 17, 1990, at the hands of the Minnesota Twins (Gaetti-Newman-Hrbek). One was hit by Tom Brunansky and the other by Jody Reed. Since 1901, this is the only time a team has turned two triple plays in one game. Ouch.
- Some of you may not know, but on the day prior to Lowrie's triple play, Milwaukee turned a triple play against the Dodgers. The last time triple plays were turned on consecutive days was all the way back on May 22 and 23 in 1981 by the Mariners and Indians respectively. Including the two turned against the Red Sox in 1990, triple plays have been turned on the same day 4 times since 1901.
- Yesterday's was the first triple play that Sean Rodriguez ever hit into. Both Ellie Rodriguez and Henry Rodriguez have hit into one as well. Some other notables who have hit into triple plays include Jackie Robinson, Bucky Dent, Orlando Cepeda, Tony and Billy Conigliaro, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, Jim Rice and some guy named Babe Ruth. But the granddaddy of all triple play losers is none other than Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson. Robinson also started 3 "around the horn" triple plays in his illustrious career.
- The only players involved in this triple play (Bedard, Lowrie, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Varitek, Rodriguez, Upton, Kotchman) who had been involved in a triple play before were Kotchman (playing first base receiving the third out) and Gonzalez (both as a first baseman receiving the third out and as the runner from first running into the second out).
- One final Red Sox related triple play fact. On August 6, 2001, the last time the Red Sox hit into a triple play, Scott Hatteberg lined the ball to the Rangers' Alex Rodriguez at short stop. He caught the ball for the first out, then threw to Randy Velarde at second to double up Brian Daubach and Velarde chased down Chris Stynes to apply the tag for the third out. Down, but not out (well out that time), Hatteberg came to the plate in his next at bat with the bases loaded and hit a grand slam to put the Red Sox up for good. This is the only time in baseball history this has happened.