BOSTON -- When a game starts with an hour-and-40-minute rain delay, a 4-1-5 double play and a lengthy PitchCom delay all before the third inning, it’s a safe bet that a night of weird baseball lies ahead.
In a 7-1 loss to the Red Sox in Tuesday’s series opener at Fenway Park, the Braves turned the first triple play in the Majors this season, and the club’s first since a May 6, 2004, contest against San Diego.
“Win or lose, you don’t see that every day,” said Michael Harris II, who put the triple play into motion.
With men on first and second in the bottom of the third, Harris caught a fly out from Triston Casas, which looked deceivingly well hit off the end of the bat but registered at a 76-mph exit velocity, per Statcast.
“Based off the swing, it looked like [Casas] hit it pretty well,” Harris said. “I guess he got it off the end and it was a little dead. I even took a step back initially and then came in hard.”
Harris fired the ball to Matt Olson at first base, where Adam Duvall was thrown out after a misread of Casas’ swing put him too far in between first and second. Without hesitation, Olson threw the ball across the diamond, where Austin Riley nabbed Masataka Yoshida at third to complete the triple play. It was the first triple play Boston has hit into since May 2, 2017, against Baltimore.
“I got out a little bit too far and he made a good throw back,” Duvall said. “It’s one of those things, it’s risk-reward and it didn’t go my way today. If I don’t get doubled off, that doesn’t happen [to Yoshida]. I take that responsibility.”
The triple play marked a career first for all three Braves involved. With Harris putting things into motion, it marked just the fifth triple play since 2000 that was started by a center fielder, and the first 8-3-5 triple play since the Boston Beaneaters turned one against the Providence Grays on June 7, 1884, according to SABR's Triple Plays Database.
Atlanta’s triple play was the first in Interleague Play since the Reds turned one against the Guardians on April 17, 2021. Nine of the 10 since then before Tuesday were in American League matchups, with the lone National League triple play turned by the Nationals against the Brewers on May 20, 2022.
“I’ve never been a part of one, so I can check that off and say I’ve done it,” Riley said.
The triple play was a relief for starter Charlie Morton, who was chased after 3 2/3 innings. Morton opened the game with a 33-pitch first inning, the most pitches he has thrown in a single frame this season.
“They weren’t really chasing anything, I wasn’t getting a lot of swing and miss, five walks,” Morton said, “just a bad outing.”
Morton gave up four runs for the second straight start, following his 5 2/3-inning outing against the D-backs on July 19. In that start, Morton generated 22 swings and six whiffs on his curveball, compared to just three whiffs on Tuesday. His seven total whiffs on all pitches are the second lowest for the right-hander this season.
“That’s just me being off, like really off in my timing and my delivery,” Morton said. “There were so many pitches there that weren’t executed. That’s more I think just staying in my delivery and timing and today was just not a good day for that.”
Entering Tuesday, Morton had struck out a Major League-leading 356 hitters with his curveball dating back to 2020. His lone strikeout in the series opener came on a 1-2 curveball that Connor Wong swung and missed on to end the grueling first inning.
“He had to really work through the first inning and he really didn’t have his good breaking ball tonight,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He battled through it. … But he just wasn’t on tonight. Charlie needs his breaking ball to be real effective and he didn’t have a really good one tonight, but that happens.”