MILWAUKEE -- Triple the defense.
“It’s not easy,” Franco said. “But sometimes the play tells you what you have to do.”
Trailing the Brewers 2-0, reliever Carl Edwards Jr. walked Jace Peterson and Kolten Wong to put runners on first and second.
On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Edwards got Luis Urías to bounce a one-hopper to the hot corner. Franco fielded it, stepped on third and fired the ball off to Hernández, who then quickly turned it to Bell at first base for a rapid trio of outs.
“I was just playing on the line and I played to cover the bunting,” Franco said. “As soon as he hit me the ball, I just thought about going to second and I knew I had a shot to get a triple play.”
Franco and Hernández also paired up to complete a 5-4-3 triple play while playing for the Phillies. The duo -- along with first baseman Tommy Joseph -- achieved the feat on Aug. 7, 2016, against the Padres.
“It’s kind of exactly the same play that I remembered,” said Franco.
After Friday's triple play, Edwards erupted with elation from the mound as the inning dashed to an end without the Brewers adding runs.
“It was huge for us at the time,” Edwards said. “I was so excited, I almost dapped the umpire up. So I think that pretty much tells everything.”
From manager Dave Martinez’s perspective in the dugout, the anticipation of the defensive rarity made Hernández’s throw to Bell feel like it was airborne “for a while,” especially in a tight game.
“Just make good throws,” Martinez thought watching the play unfold. “That was pretty awesome. As soon as he hit the ball there, right away, you said, ‘Triple play.’ But then all of a sudden, like I said, half the play is catching, the other half is throwing the ball around the field. They did a great job.”
In the outfield, the Nationals got to witness a defensive spectacle.
“It was a great ball to do it on,” said left fielder Lane Thomas. “It was just bang, bang, bang. It was cool.”
The Nationals are only the second team to turn a triple play this season. The Rangers also did it on April 20 vs. the Mariners.
“It's a rare thing,” Urías said. I don't want to hit into one, but it happens.”
The trifecta was last completed by the Nats on July 29, 2016, when Ryan Zimmerman snagged Brandon Crawford’s line drive, doubled off Buster Posey at first base and threw out Denard Span at third to Anthony Rendon for a 3-3-5 triple play against the Giants in San Francisco.