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Arraez, Schoop were prepped for triple-play ball

Twins convert 5-4-3 gem in first inning against Yankees
@dohyoungpark
July 23, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- With men on first and second and none out, Twins second baseman Jonathan Schoop and third baseman Luis Arraez were yelling at each other across the infield, struggling to communicate over the noise of an energetic crowd of 34,627 at Target Field. Schoop was preparing Arraez, the rookie

MINNEAPOLIS -- With men on first and second and none out, Twins second baseman Jonathan Schoop and third baseman Luis Arraez were yelling at each other across the infield, struggling to communicate over the noise of an energetic crowd of 34,627 at Target Field.

Schoop was preparing Arraez, the rookie with 36 big league games under his belt, for the unlikely event of a possible triple-play ball hit in his direction. You know, just in case.

"I told him, 'If it's close to you, go to the base and trust me,'" Schoop said. "'Give it to me.'"

"That's exactly how it happened," Arraez said.

This series against the American League-leading Yankees could offer the Twins a chance to make another big statement on the national stage, and they got it started on a historic note, turning the 13th triple play in club history in the first inning of an 8-6 win Monday in the series opener at Target Field.

Arraez and Schoop couldn't have drawn it up any more accurately. Edwin Encarnacion hit a sharp grounder to Arraez, who stepped on third and made an off-balance throw to Schoop before the throw to first baseman Miguel Sanó completed the play.

"That’s what a triple play looks like," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Not even necessarily with Edwin running, but if you handle that play perfectly, that’s how it’s set up."

It was the first triple play turned by the Twins since June 1, 2017, when Sano, Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer turned three against the Angels. It's MLB's second triple play this season. The White Sox had the first one on May 23.

Twins starter Martin Pérez had walked both DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge to open the first inning and had a lengthy battle with Encarnacion, who grounded the ninth pitch of the at-bat, a changeup, down the third-base line.

"[Encarnacion is] a slow runner, and Judge, he's slow too," Perez said. "When I saw Arraez going to touch the base and throwing to second, I went like, 'I think we got it.'"

Judge was forced out at second in a bang-bang play before Encarnacion was thrown out at first base by a half-step by Schoop's strong arm at second base. According to Statcast, Encarnacion's sprint speed of 27.1 feet per second was well above his personal average of 24.3 this season, and his 4.66 seconds from home to first marked his fastest time of the year.

The last time the first two batters of a game reached and then were erased on a triple play was Sept. 23, 2016. Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler of the Reds reached in the top of the first at Milwaukee before Joey Votto lined into a triple play.

The Twins agreed after the game that most of the credit was due to Arraez, who, despite being a 22-year-old rookie playing his secondary position at third base, had the anticipation to make the split-second decision before making a perfect, off-balance feed to Schoop.

"You've got to anticipate it," Schoop said. "Before the ball is hit, you've got to make the decision if you're going to do it or not. The ball was perfect, a little soft, so he could charge in and put it on the base and give it to me and turn the triple play."

"I'm sure when you were watching an 11-year-old Luis Arraez play baseball, you could tell he was working at a different level than most of the other players, and that’s just another example," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said.

With that said, the Twins also couldn't have asked for a better player to make the turn in the middle, given Schoop's soft hands and well-above-average arm at second base.

"Schoopy’s got one of the fastest turns in the league, so get him the ball and give him a chance," catcher Mitch Garver said. "Even if Judge is safe at second, he’s got a chance to still get two there. Great decision."

In addition to the historic aspect of the moment, the triple play was also an important early momentum shift in what proved to be a back-and-forth game. It turned the tables on a rally against a struggling Perez and set the stage for back-to-back long balls in the bottom of the first inning that jump-started the Twins' five-homer night.

"We're trying to build a big inning, trying to create a rally there for us," Encarnacion said. "In one play, it went against us."

"I would have been totally happy if [Arraez] threw it across the diamond and we got two outs," Garver said. "But why not? Why not try?"

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.