NEW YORK -- Those Major League treasure seekers, looking to unearth the game's rarities, knew they were onto something when play began at Citi Field on Aug. 23.

9 for 09
12/23: April's tri-cycle
12/24: Ellsbury steals home
12/25: Fowler steals five
12/26: Werth runs wild
12/27: Rallying Tribe
12/28: Stetter's mark
12/29: Hanrahan's odd win
12/30: Mets bear Brunt
12/31: Nolasco's 16K gem

It started when Angel Pagan, manning the leadoff spot in the absence of the injured Jose Reyes, led off the bottom of the first inning with an inside-the-park home run. That does not happen often. But what really prompted head-scratching from the 39,038 in attendance -- and what solidified the game as perhaps the league's quirkiest of the season -- was what took place in the ninth.

On the verge of righting all their wrongs from the previous eight innings, the Mets, trailing by two runs, brought the potential winning run to the plate with no outs in the ninth. Daniel Murphy led off first base and Luis Castillo off second, before Jeff Francoeur smashed a line drive directly at Phillies second baseman Eric Bruntlett.

The rest is baseball history. Bruntlett snared the liner, stomped on second base to double off Castillo and then tagged Murphy, who was running on the play. Comeback over, just like that.

"The most unbelievable play I've ever been involved in," Francoeur said after the game. "And the sickest ... to end the way it did was a little disheartening."

It was the most unbelievable play Francoeur could remember for a reason. Only once before in Major League history, way back in 1927, had a game ended with an unassisted triple play. And only 14 other times had anyone recorded an unassisted triple play -- the feat remains rarer than a perfect game.

For it to take place eight innings after an inside-the-park home run was incredible. For it to take place smack in the middle of one of baseball's best rivalries was downright astonishing.

"It really is true," Bruntlett said that day. "When you think you've seen it all, you'll have something you've never seen before happen."

Compared to an unassisted triple play, what Pagan did wound up seeming ordinary. Driving Pedro Martinez's second pitch into the left-center-field gap, Pagan raced around second while Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino signaled that the ball was stuck between the ground and the base of the wall.

Umpires did not see it that way, however, and by the time Victorino retrieved the ball and heaved it to the infield, Pagan was already on his way home.

"Some of the stuff that happened today -- I'm just speechless," Victorino said. "I don't know what to say about today's game."

And to think, prior to the game, everyone was focused simply on Martinez's first start back in New York after signing with the Phillies. Martinez wound up being a non-factor, even more so than Pagan.

The day, instead, belonged to Bruntlett, a utility infielder who was in position to make history only because the Mets attempted a double steal with two men on base and no outs in the ninth. Had Castillo and Murphy stayed put, Bruntlett would not have been running toward the second-base bag, which wound have rendered him unable to snare Francoeur's liner. Most likely, the Mets would have had the bases loaded with no outs, rather than the game over with three of them.

Murphy, for his part, reached base only because Bruntlett couldn't glove his ball up the middle moments earlier.

But such is the fickle game of baseball, which Pagan, Victorino, Bruntlett and Francoeur came to know all too well.

"It was a crucial situation," Bruntlett said of the triple play. "It was huge, especially when I was part of the reason that we got into a bad spot there in the ninth. It feels extra special to have that happen there to finish off the game."