Phils turn a 1-3-5 triple play 95 years in making

June 25th, 2024

DETROIT -- had cruised through his first two innings at Comerica Park on Monday night when the Tigers launched an offensive.

And so, when Detroit led off the third with back-to-back singles, Nola calmly pulled the rug out from the home team, spearheading the first triple play in MLB this season -- and the first of its kind in nearly 100 years -- and helping the Phillies roll to an 8-1 win in the series opener.

“I realized [what might happen] after I threw it to first,” said Nola, who went on to strike out six and throw seven innings of one-run ball. “... It happened so quick. It was pretty cool. I guess it was a good way to get out of the inning.”

Matt Vierling’s weak liner to the mound with runners at the corners forced Nola to bend to shin level and pluck it from the air for the first out. The initial reaction froze runner Carson Kelly midway between first and second and allowed Nola to easily fire the ball to first to pick him off.

Then, the curious part. Zach McKinstry, who’d singled to open the inning, appeared not to see Nola catch Vierling’s hit in the air. McKinstry stopped about 20 feet off third base, then slowly crept up the line as Nola threw to first, a widely acceptable reaction when a runner is trying to score on an infield grounder.

"A lot of things [were] flying,” McKinstry said. “... I just kind of took a shuffle, shuffle and went home on it. I don't want to say I wasn't sure, but I thought the ball hit the ground."

The only problem was it hadn't hit the ground, and McKinstry hadn’t tagged up after Nola made the initial out. The Tigers’ shortstop appeared to think Nola was trying to get the batter out at first, not double off the runner already on first, and sprinted home to score what he thought was Detroit’s first run.

"I just kind of looked at Vierling like, 'That was a line drive?'” McKinstry said. “And he was like, 'Yeah.' So, palm-to-face kind of thing."

Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs, meanwhile, stepped in front of home plate and pointed toward third, and first baseman Bryce Harper tossed the ball to third baseman Alec Bohm, who stepped on the bag to end the inning with a bizarre 1-3-5 triple play.

“It wasn't like he gave up on the play,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I mean, he went full speed into home thinking completely that the ball had touched the ground and Nola had spun and thrown to first for some reason. So he misread the play."

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Monday’s feat marked the first triple play in MLB since the Angels turned one on Aug. 18, 2023, against the Rays. It was the Phillies’ 37th triple play in club history and their first since Aug. 27, 2017, against the Cubs.

“How about that?” Phils manager Rob Thomson said with a laugh. “It's funny because from where we sit, there's a glare on that left field fence-wall. You can't see the ball coming off the bat, so I had no idea where the ball went. And all of a sudden, they were throwing it around, and then they were running off the field.”

It was the first triple play turned against the Tigers since Aug. 3, 2017, against the O’s, and the 29th total against Detroit in club history.

Per the SABR database, it was also the first 1-3-5 triple play since July 11, 1929, when the Tigers pulled one off against Boston.