ANAHEIM -- Before Thursday's game against the Angels, Twins third baseman Miguel Sano worked on his defense with third-base coach Gene Glynn with an emphasis on fielding grounders while positioned near the third-base bag.
Sano gleefully predicted to all that would listen that he would turn a triple play later in the night. And sure enough, just a few hours later, the Twins turned their first triple play in over a decade, as rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia got the Angels' Jefry Marte to ground into a 5-4-3 triple play that was started by Sano in a 4-2 win at Angel Stadium.
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"I kept thinking about it and saying it," Sano said through translator Carlos Font. "I came in early today and practiced fielding ground balls down the line and touching the bag and throwing it to second. Once the situation came, I kept saying, 'Mejia, give me the right pitch.' And he did it."
After Jose Pujols and Yunel Escobar singled to open the fourth inning, Marte hit a 1-0 fastball from Mejia to Sano, who quickly touched third and fired to James Dozier at second before Dozier got the ball to first baseman Joe Mauer in time to beat Marte. Sano pumped his fist in celebration after the play, causing Twins manager Paul Molitor to joke about Sano's reaction.
"I'm not sure if he was more excited about the play," Molitor said. "Or being prophetic."
Whatever Sano's reason, it was the first triple play turned by the Twins since May 7, 2006, against the Mariners, and it was the first turned against the Angels since July 7, 2004. It was also the 11th in franchise history.
Mejia said he was simply trying to get a double-play grounder with his two-seamer and got the best possible result.
"I never thought about it as a triple play," Mejia said. "When it was hit, I thought it was going to be a double play. But it was awesome to get the triple play. I definitely threw a pitch to get a double play, but thanks to the sinker and Miguel, we got a triple play."
Sano was positioned perfectly for the play, according to Statcast™, as he was essentially even with the bag with a starting depth of 89 feet, compared to his season average of 114, allowing him to quickly step on third. Marte took 4.55 seconds to reach first, which was his ninth-fastest time of the year, giving Minnesota plenty of time to turn three.
"If there's such thing as a tailor-made triple play, that was it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And those guys turned it, so give them credit. The ball was hit where it had to be hit for that play to be turned."