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News » Triple plays aren't as rare as one might expect

Triple plays aren't as rare as one might expect

Triple plays aren't as rare as one might expect
Adam LaRoche needed only 22 major league games to be on the good end of a triple play.

The Pirates' first baseman made the final out of the Baseball rarity as a rookie with the Braves in 2004 and did it again last week at Cincinnati Reds.

But even with triple-play experience, it was an odd feeling.

"It's just so rare," LaRoche said. "You don't realize it's possible to get three outs in one play."

It's not that unusual for LaRoche, who, in his sixth season, has been part of more triple plays than Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, Albert Pujols and Willie Stargell.

And while it was the Pirates' first triple play in 16 years, the feat is more common than one might expect.

There have been 676 triple plays turned in major league Baseball, many more than other Baseball rarities such as no-hitters (257) and batters hitting for the cycle (284)

Still, the circumstances have to be perfect for a play to unfold that typically leaves fans - and even managers and players - shaking their heads and wondering if their eyes are fooling them.

"Three outs on one pitch," said shortstop Jack Wilson, who started the triple play. "It's not supposed to happen."

That was the reaction when Edwin Encarnacion hit into a Wilson-to-Freddy Sanchez-to-LaRoche triple play in the eighth inning of an eventual 2-0 Pirates loss for the club's first triple play since August 1993 and 35th all-time.

"I didn't even know it was happening," said Wilson, who caught a soft popout, leading to two runners being doubled up. "It kind of just fell in our laps."

Sanchez had never been involved in triple play, and Wilson harkened back to T-ball for his only one.

Pirates first-base coach Perry Hill had never witnessed a triple play in 40 years as a player and coach.

"I've seen a million of them on TV," he said, "but that's the first one that I've ever been on the field. I'm surprised I haven't seen more live, to be honest with you."

There has been at least one triple play turned every year since 1974, but Hill said teams rarely put themselves in position to hit into one.

"Most teams do not run first and second and nobody out, because you can run yourself right of an inning," Hill said. "You very seldom see it."

The vast majority of triple plays come with runners on first and second. Of the past 60 (dating to 1992), 49 came under those circumstances. Only three triple plays were turned with the bases loaded.

There was a time when the triple play was standard practice for the Pirates , who turned five triple plays in a four-year span from 1968-71. Since then, they have five in 28 years.

The unassisted triple play ? such as the one Mickey Morandini turned against the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium in 1992 ? remains one of the sport's rarest feats, with only 14 all-time.

Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez, in his 19th season, has seen only two triple plays, both coming with the Rangers, in 2001 (at Fenway Park, started by Alex Rodriguez) and 2002 (against Seattle).

"First of all, everybody has to be in the right place, and the ball has to be hit in the right place," the catcher said. "It's one of those hard plays in Baseball."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 20, 2009

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