Sunday 14 April 2013

4-6-5-6-5-3-4 Triple Play

The Baltimore Orioles, 2012 edition, were the Team Of Destiny. They had a late inning mojo that carried them into the postseason. What do I mean when I say mojo? Well, Jayson Stark breaks down all the extra inning accomplishments in a post from last September (Bullet point 2). Adding to the extra innings accomplishments, when leading after 7 innings, they were 74-0. You could bank on the Orioles last year, when the chips were down, they came through. Those records have a lot to do with factors that are really not in the player's control. You can't really be so good you have invincible pitchers for the last 2 innings of every game, if they really existed, they wouldn't give up runs in any other innings either. Some of that run to the playoffs was built on luck.

If luck plays a part in creating favourable circumstances, it can certainly play a part in creating unfavourable ones too.

So the 2012 Orioles were blessed. Their magic made they fans believe they were destined to win it all. As it turns out, they were destined to reach the playoffs. They were destined to win the Wild Card Playoff game. Then they were destined to lose to the Yankees in 5 games, and go home for the winter.

Not the destiny that had been mapped out, but hey, playoffs! Anything can happen.

So the team of destiny withered on the vine, and here we are, in 2013. The general consensus in baseball circles is that there is little reason to believe that the Orioles have any ability to keep the Team Of Destiny moniker valid for two years running.

So, on April 12th, visiting Yankee stadium, Baltimore is locked in a 2-2 tie in 7th inning. After loading the bases with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch, Tommy hunter has been replaced by  Pedro Strop. There are 2 outs. Vernon Wells, facing Strop, drives a fly ball deep to centre, but Adam Jones has a bead on it.
From Paul Sporer
Man, lady luck is a cruel mistress. Three runs score on the play, and I'm sure his gum doesn't taste right anymore, either.

Of course, the title of this post has nothing to do with a 3-run, 2-base error, does it, now?

The title clearly references a triple play. The triple play is, in my experience, always infused with a certain amount of magic. The transformation from potential runs, directly into everybody running off the field is always a moment infused with drama and excitement. I've written about one other triple play, from last year. That one had a lot in common with others I have witnessed. The baserunners were more or less victims of circumstance, and one infielder made the right play to finish them all off. The most rapid triple play often takes just a few seconds, as a line drive with the runners going, when hit at the shortstop or second baseman, can result in an unassisted three outs. The three outs can occur in less than 2 seconds. If the triple play the Yankees pulled off was anything like that, I might be writing about it anyway, but to me, this is much, much more enjoyable.

The first two batters of the 8th reach against C.C. Sabathia, and it looks like the Orioles late inning mojo might be rearing its ugly head once again. But then, then a ground ball to Robinson Cano and everything goes into motion.

OK, so, to coin a phrase, 'How'd they do that?' 
Cano fields the grounder, and the runners are forced into motion. He makes the natural move to shovel to his shortstop so he can make the turn at second.  Jayson Nix is the shortstop, and has only been in the game since the 3rd inning, replacing Eduardo Nunez, who was hit by a pitch. First, Nix steps on second to make the out on Markakis, then he turns to third, (not the natural play at first), and throws. Why? 
Alexi Casilla is a quick runner, but Nix thinks he can get him at third. On the replay, you can see Casilla breaks back to second on contact. He's guessing that Cano might catch the ball and try to double him up before he tags the bag. Nix sees that mistake right in front of him as he heads to the bag. He knows Casilla is in big trouble, provided Youkilis is manning third where he should be. Casilla could have tried to slide back in behind Nix, with the runner forcing him over to third having been eliminated, but might have been tagged then, too.
As he gets into a rundown, it's the batter-runner, Machado, who makes the triple play possible. 
In the eighth inning, down 3 runs, the difference between a runner on first and a runner on second is not very much. The game has tipped heavily in the Yankees favour with the first two outs. For some reason Machado thinks it is both 1) Important, and 2) Fairly probable, that he can get safely to second base. It is neither case 1 or case 2, as the play comes to it's merciful and spectacular conclusion. Most runners would have stayed at first and cursed their bad luck. If he had, there would be a mildly unusual 4-6-5-6-5 double play to talk about, and nothing more. If you like the triple play better, you owe Manny Machado a big, big pat on the back. Which is probably much higher up than where his manager kicked him after his overly aggressive baserunning.
This play is scored a 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play. This play has never been recorded in an MLB boxscore before tonight. The fact that something unique can still happen in a game with over 100 years of history is, to me, quite magical.

No comments:

Post a Comment