The Minnesota Twins‘ road game Monday night against the Chicago White Sox featured the first-ever 8-5 triple play in AL or NL history. With the game tied at two in the bottom of the seventh and runners on first and second, White Sox outfielder A.J. Pollock hit the ball hard the other way to right-center field. Runners Adam Engel and Yoan Moncada took off, thinking Pollock’s drive would either clear the wall or drop in for a hit. But Twins’ centerfielder Byron Buxton then did something incredible.
Buxton (seen above celebrating a two-run home run he hit earlier in this game) made an amazing run to catch the ball just ahead of the wall. He then turned and uncorked a throw into the infield, where third baseman Gio Urshela fielded it around short, tagged a retreating Moncada (who had passed third by the time the ball was caught), and stepped on second to put Engel out.
‼️ Textbook Triple Play ‼️ pic.twitter.com/IUTkIJjfoD
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) July 5, 2022
“I don’t know how much more stuff can be a first in MLB history, so at least it was something left for us in the middle age to kind of grab, I guess,” Buxton said with a smile. “It’s cool. Ain’t too much thought into it other than the triple play got us out of the inning and it kind of got us a little momentum going.”
What’s also fascinating in that piece is the breakdown of what the runners were thinking. With this play coming so close to the wall, Twins’ right fielder Max Kepler was yelling “Wall!” to let Buxton know where he was. And Buxton took his eye off the ball in flight for a moment to get his bearings, which allowed him to then make the catch and know he had room for a step, letting him brace himself and use the wall to turn. But his look away convinced Engel the ball was dropping in, as Engel said afterwards:
“When he looked toward the wall, I thought he was looking for the ball to go down,” Engel said. “I just made a bad play. Made a mistake on it. Unfortunate. It cost us some runs right there, most likely, and probably would have gone on to win the game.”
But it also set up the only 8-5 triple play in AL or NL history, as per the SABR database dating back to 1876. So that’s pretty remarkable. It was also only the 16th triple play in Twins’ history, and the second involving just two players (the previous one there was a 2-6 triple play on July 25, 1976, also against the White Sox). And it put Buxton and Urshela into the record books.
[MLB.com; photo from Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports]