NEW YORK -- Aroldis Chapman came to the set position on the Yankee Stadium mound in the ninth inning on Friday, his early-season run of dominance hanging in the balance. Nearly untouchable through 17 appearances, the Yankees’ closer was now searching to escape this self-created jam.
A five-pitch walk and Chapman’s miscue fielding a sacrifice-bunt attempt placed runners at first and second with none out. Chapman gulped as Andrew Vaughn smacked a slider on the ground to third baseman Gio Urshela, then realized that he was watching a triple play develop in real time.
“That's just one of those plays that you don't see every day,” Chapman said through an interpreter, having earned the victory in the Yankees’ 2-1 win over the White Sox.
Urshela took two steps to his right, tagging third base to force out pinch-runner Billy Hamilton, then fired a bullet to second baseman Rougned Odor. That retired Leury García, and Odor tossed on to first baseman Luke Voit to nab Vaughn and complete the Yankees’ first triple play since April 17, 2014, against the Rays.
“The second I saw the ground ball to Gio, I knew something special was coming,” said shortstop Gleyber Torres, who delivered a walk-off single in the bottom half of the ninth. “That triple play was amazing. It’s the first time in my career to see one and be part of one. I think it’s the most exciting moment.”
Chapman pumped his fist exuberantly and high fived Urshela immediately after the triple play. In the dugout, Chapman found Urshela again, offering his third baseman an appreciative bear hug.
“We were just chatting about how he got me out of that hole,” Chapman said. “Runners on first and second, nobody out and you have Hamilton at second base. As you know, he's a fast runner. [Urshela] helped me out.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he had a great view to see the play develop from his perch in the first-base dugout.
“I'm right in line with Gio there, so how he hit it, right away it popped in my head,” Boone said. “With Gio being as instinctive as he is, he did the right thing -- quickly stepped on the bag, threw a strike to Rougie, who really turned it over well to finish off a special play and get us out of trouble there. That’s an energy giver.”
Before Friday, the Yanks’ most recent triple play came in a 10-2 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. CC Sabathia was on the mound facing Sean Rodriguez, who hit into the triple play: third baseman Yangervis Solarte to second baseman Brian Roberts to first baseman Scott Sizemore.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa observed that if Vaughn’s ball traveled a few feet farther away from Urshela, the game could have turned out differently.
"I look at what Andrew did -- he made hard contact and that made it a triple play,” La Russa said. “That ball goes side to side, it breaks the inning open. But that's baseball.”
The most recent team to throw a no-hitter and turn a triple play (in either order) within a span of three or fewer days was the Cardinals on Sept. 26 and 27, 1983, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Yankees' triple play came two nights after right-hander Corey Kluber no-hit one of his former teams, the Rangers, at Globe Life Field -- the Yankees' first no-hitter since 1999.
Friday was an insane night in The Show. Along with the Yankees' triple play, the Braves hit two grand slams and the Reds' Jesse Winker slugged three homers. It's the first time in MLB history all three of those feats occurred on the same day, according to STATS.