Twins turn triple play... or maybe not?

September 1st, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox had the bases loaded with none out against Twins left-hander Rich Hill in Monday night's 8-5 Chicago victory, and Danny Mendick hit a line drive. And then ... something happened.

Second baseman Luis Arraez had the liner hit off the heel of his glove, and it dropped to the dirt. He threw it to Jorge Polanco, who was covering second base. Polanco relayed it to first base, where Miguel Sanó tagged the runner retreating from second back to first. The ball went back to Polanco, who threw a one-hopper to home plate after much deliberation with Arraez and Hill. All of the baserunners, more or less, stayed put.

Got all that?

What exactly did it mean? Well, the Twins' defense sure didn't know in the moment, and neither did the umpires, who immediately congregated for a lengthy conference. In the end, what could have -- and arguably should have -- been a triple play turned into one of the more chaotic 4-6 forceouts you'll ever see, upheld upon replay review.

If Arraez had initially thrown the ball to home plate after he dropped the line drive, the Twins might have started a rare 4-2-5-6 triple play, or something of the sort, with runners being forced out at home, third and second, in that order, since none of them were running hard to the next base amid the confusion.

Had the Twins turned three that way, they would have joined some extremely rare company. The only 4-2-5-6 triple play in baseball history was turned in 1893, when the Brooklyn Grooms accomplished the feat against the Baltimore Orioles, who, at the time, were in the National League.

Instead, when Arraez threw the ball to second, the Twins forced out Luis Robert, the runner who had been standing at first base, and when Polanco threw the ball to first base, Robert was actually tagged out again -- even though he was already out. At that point, Mendick was already safely at first base, and runners Edwin Encarnación and James McCann had stayed put at third and second, respectively, removing the possibility for any other outs.

Had the Twins turned three, they would have escaped the inning with a 4-0 lead intact -- and a weird piece of history in the boxscore, to boot. Instead, Adam Engel hit a two-run single, Chicago chased Hill, and a 4-6 putout will go down innocently in the boxscore for all but those who decide to take a closer look.