KANSAS CITY -- Rocco Baldelli thinks that it’s about time he took Miguel Sanó along for an outing at a local casino.
With runners on first and second in the third inning, Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez squared around to bunt and hit it in the air -- into the waiting glove of first baseman Sanó, who was charging towards home after warning the other infielders to watch for a triple play. With both runners moving on the play, it was rather simple business for the Twins to complete the 15th triple play in club history and escape the jam in Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium.
Sanó has been in that situation several times before, now having taken part in the last four triple plays in club history, including the latest one that set up a 2-1 win and a split of the four-game series with Kansas City. He claims to have called three of them before they happened.
“I’m going to take him to Treasure Island [Resort and Casino], and we’re going to hang out for a night, and we’re going to have a splendid time,” Baldelli said. “Maybe even an offseason trip or two, because why would you waste something like that, you know?”
In a game with precious little wiggle room, that big play was likely the difference in the outcome. It brought the Royals’ most promising scoring opportunity to a screeching halt and set up a stingy effort from the Minnesota bullpen, which combined for five scoreless innings.
"As soon as we get a situation like that, we try to prepare our mentality and try to make a hard play, a triple play, you know?” Sanó said. “It's not easy. But the sooner we anticipate it and we try to make it, we're lucky. We've got it a few times.”
Sanó said that he saw it all play out in his mind. He recognized it was a bunt situation and told pitcher Bailey Ober, who threw four innings of one-run ball, that if it popped into the air, he knew exactly what to do.
Once Sanó snatched the line drive out of the air off Lopez’s bunt, he flipped to shortstop Andrelton Simmons at second base to double off Jarrod Dyson. Simmons ran toward first for several steps before he threw to second baseman Nick Gordon on the first-base bag to triple off Cam Gallagher.
It marked the first 3-6-4 triple play ever turned by the Twins, and the first in Major League Baseball since the Mariners turned one on May 31, 1980. The last time the Royals hit into a triple play was on April 20, 2012.
“I peeked out of my left eye and I saw Miggy running in, and I was like, 'I'm not going to run into him,'” Ober said of the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Sanó. “Gave him a little bit of room, and as soon as he caught it, I turned my head and I saw those two guys were way off the bag.”
The execution on that play was important because Minnesota squandered other opportunities to add to its lead. Following Sanó’s RBI double down the left-field line in the third, Alex Kirilloff took too wide of a turn around third base and was tagged out. In the fifth, the Twins loaded the bases with none out and only scored on a go-ahead, two-out hit-by-pitch by Trevor Larnach.
The Twins' previous triple play on Aug. 7, 2019, against Atlanta, was part of a three-week stretch in which they turned two 5-4-3 triple plays, following another against the Yankees on July 22, 2019. In fact, it was their fourth triple play turned in the last five years -- and Sanó was involved in all of them. He was the third baseman for two of them, starting with another against the Angels on June 1, 2017, and the first baseman for the other two.
Minnesota's four triple plays in that span are twice as many as any other team in that period (the Reds and Orioles have two apiece).
Here’s the thing, though: Surely, Baldelli realizes that Sanó (maybe call him a wannabe Sanó-stradamus at this point) zealously predicting a triple play in every such scenario must have a low success rate, right?
“I don't need to know [how many he's missed on] right now,” the skipper said. “We'll see how it plays out.”
He should probably sort that out before their casino trip.