Rays turn triple play against Mariners
Club performs unique feat for second time in team history
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay starter J.P. Howell said it looked like a snowball fight. Shortstop Ben Zobrist called it awesome. Catcher Dioner Navarro was just looking forward to seeing himself on ESPN's highlights. But there was one thing about the triple play the Rays turned on Friday night that everyone agreed on, though -- no one had ever seen one of its kind before.
That's because it had never been done.
According to SABR, even though there have been 524 triple plays since 1900, Tampa Bay's first-inning trick that included a strikeout and two attempted steals -- 2-6-2 on the official scoresheet -- had never been done before. And that wasn't lost on the Rays.
"Oh man!" Howell exclaimed after the game. "It was the first one I've ever seen, so I'll take that. [My theory was just] throw a strike and move. I was trying to throw a strike. I was wrapped in that so bad, I just watched the ball fly around like a snowball fight. But it was fun, man. I needed that."
And it all happened in the blink of an eye. First, Howell struck Seattle's Raul Ibanez out swinging. Then catcher Navarro fired the ball to second base where speedy shortstop Zobrist tagged out Adrian Beltre on the run, who was trying to steal. Just as Seattle's Jose Lopez began to sneak home, Zobrist wheeled around and fired the ball to Navarro, who met Lopez two steps later to complete the triple play.
It also kept the Mariners to one run for the inning, though they'd had runners at the corners and no outs a few seconds prior.
"They executed it extremely well," Maddon said. "J.P. threw a strike ... and those two guys took care of it extremely nicely. In a practice situation, you couldn't do it any better than that."
It was the first triple play Tampa Bay has turned at Tropicana Field, and just the second in club history -- the Rays turned three on Sept. 13, 2002, at Toronto.
On the flip side, it was the ninth triple play Seattle has hit into, as well as the second this season. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said it went a long way to take the wind out of his team's sails.
"You have to get rid of that absolute hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach. That takes a couple of innings," he said. "It was one of those things that everything had to be right for it to be pulled off and it did, and we gave away an inning."
Though Zobrist was the anchor during the elusive play, he was quick to give credit where credit was due.
"[Navarro's] throw down to second was perfect. Obviously, Beltre saw that, and he wasn't about to test that," Zobrist said. "That throw was perfect. It led me into him where I could take it and just continue running and make the tag. Out of [my] peripheral vision, I saw the guy taking off for home, so it just snap, snap, happened -- just like that."
Yup. Simple as that.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.