MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps Miguel Sanó just has a sixth sense when it comes to turning three.
Twins infield coordinator Tony Diaz tried to tell Sano to take a few steps back and play deeper with the bases loaded against Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers. But Sano, who had been a part of the Twins' last two triple plays, overruled the decision and decided to play even with the third-base bag.
"I knew the possibility, and I said, I play here," Sano said.
And what do you know?
Sano was in perfect position to field a sharp grounder to third base and rather routinely started a 5-4-3 triple play that erased a bases-loaded, no-out situation and put an end to a three-run Atlanta rally in the third inning of the Twins' 11-7 loss to the Braves on Wednesday afternoon at Target Field.
"When the pitching coach came to the mound to talk to [starter Martin Pérez], he said, 'We don’t know if we can make a triple play, but try to get two outs,'" Sano said.
"And I said, 'Why not? We can make it.'"
Flowers slashed an 0-1 cutter down the third-base line, and the grounder was fielded a step off the third-base bag by Sano, whose momentum allowed him to step on third and fire to second. Jonathan Schoop made the turn to first baseman C.J. Cron, nabbing Flowers by a step and a half at first base to complete the 14th triple play in Twins history.
"I was waiting where I got the ball," Sano said. "I took one step to get the base, and I gave a good throw to second base, and Schoopie, he put a bazooka down there."
"Good play by Sano, and when he gets it to me, it's a done deal," Schoop said.
Both Sano and Schoop had also been involved in the Twins’ previous triple play on July 22 against the Yankees, when Luis Arraez started a nearly identical play on a first-inning ground ball by Edwin Encarnacion, with Sano on the receiving end as the first baseman on that play. Perez was also the starting pitcher in that game.
Perez became the first pitcher to be on the mound for two triple plays in a season since Zach Davies, who saw the Milwaukee defense turn three behind him twice in 2016.
Schoop and Sano were prepared for the possibility, having discussed the plan before the play, but it definitely caught Schoop off guard when, once again, things unfolded exactly according to plan.
"I didn't think we would do it twice in a season," Schoop said.
The last team to turn two triple plays in a season was the 2017 Orioles, who turned three on May 2 and Aug. 3 that year. The last time the Twins did so was in 1990, when they not only turned a pair of triple plays in a season -- they did so in one game, twice going around the horn for 5-4-3 triple plays in a July 17 game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Twins have now turned multiple triple plays in a season five times (1914, '36, '88, '90 and 2019).
The triple play brought a neat end to an inning that was quickly spiraling out of control for Perez, who had allowed three runs in a messy frame that featured a passed ball, a pair of baseballs ricocheting off the gloves of Twins infielders and a bases-loaded walk.
"The triple plays do help," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I can't remember seeing very many of them ever, but the two of them this year have been definitely helpful for us and for Martin. We'll take it as far as that getting three outs on a pitch. But that being said, it did buy us a little bit more time and some more pitches and some more innings."
With two triple plays already under his belt this season, Schoop couldn't decide whether or not he hoped to complete the hat trick.
"I hope so," Schoop said. "I hope not. I hope so. You know what I mean? If we can get the pitcher out of a jam like that, it's good, but I hope we don't get bases loaded so that we need to turn a triple play."