In 2000, a savvy Melvin Mora turned a routine popup into an alert 6-4-3 triple play
A few months ago, the Orioles found themselves in an odd situation that ended up as a 6-4-3 triple play. Yes, 6-4-3 -- the same combination of position players you usually see in a double play, but with three outs instead of two.
It all happened when shortstop J.J. Hardy couldn't catch a popup to short left field with runners on first and second. Here's a longer explanation of what went down, but it looked like this:
That was the first triple play of the 2017 season, and also the Orioles' first triple play since their September 1, 2000, game with the Indians. Even stranger: That triple play just so happened to be of the exact same variety, but with Melvin Mora playing the role Hardy held in the sequel.
Step 1: Ranging into short left field, Mora looked like he was going to make a routine catch on a popup off the bat of Sandy Alomar Jr.
Step 2: But then, at the last second, Mora pulled back as the ball fell to the ground -- possibly because he knew the umpires had not signaled for the infield fly rule and he saw a chance for an audible.
Here's what it looked like live:
The result was justified confusion all around, as this was still years before the implementation of instant replay. After some umpire discussion, it was determined that, yes, this was a triple play by rule ... which Mora and second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. had been lobbying for:
In plays like this, you have to feel for the baserunners, who in this case were Travis Fryman and Wil Cordero. Caught in the limbo of not knowing whether they ought to advance or retreat, they retreated -- which led to each of them being retired on the back end of a highly irreverent triple play.
As for Mora, this was an expert-level example of the value of alert infielders ... as this was all him.