The 11th triple play in Seattle Mariners history was almost certainly the strangest.
It happened in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, and it required a series of intelligent baseball plays (by the Mariners) and one serious screw-up (by Toronto).
Here’s the scene: nobody out, Ezequiel Carrera on third, Kevin Pillar on first, Taijuan Walker pitching to Ryan Goins.
Goins hits a sharp grounder to Mark Trumbo, who pivots and steps on first base for the first out. He checks Carrera at third before throwing to shortstop Brad Miller, who must chase after and tag out Pillar — who stopped running to make this more difficult — to achieve a double play.
But Miller instead sees that Carrera has wandered off third base and into “no-man’s land,” as Miller described it, so he does exactly what a defender is taught to do in such a situation, and runs right at Carrera to force him to commit one way or the other.
Carrera begins breaking for home, so Miller tosses the ball to catcher Mike Zunino, who runs Carrera back to third base — because Pillar has rounded second and is already standing at third, meaning one of them is assured of being out.
So with Pillar and Carrera both standing on third base, Zunino tags both. By rule, Pillar is out and Carrera — who, as the lead runner, has a right to the base — is safe.
But for some reason, Carrera fell down — “why, I have no idea,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said — and Zunino holds the tag on him, and the Mariners wind up with the first 3-6-2-2 triple play since 1955.
“I thought we were going to have a double play there,” Zunino said, “and then Miller did a great job of keeping his eye on Carrera at third, got him to commit the right way, gave the ball up to me, and I knew with (third baseman Kyle) Seager telling me to run him back because Pillar was already over there, and in that situation you’re told to just tag both guys and let the umpire tell you who’s out.”
Miller and Walker both said there was some confusion over how many outs were actually recorded on the play. There was so much going on, Walker said, that he actually forgot about Trumbo recording the first out by touching first base.
“We had a chance to possibly have a big inning right there,” Gibbons said. “We had the right guys coming up. That’s how you lose.”
After Carson Smith allowed the Blue Jays to score two runs in the ninth inning of their 8-6 Saturday victory over the Mariners, Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon concluded that Smith’s faltering was due to overuse.
McClendon said Sunday morning that he figured pitching three consecutive days was going to be difficult for the 25-year-old rookie, who had allowed only eight runs in 402/3 innings this season before Saturday’s loss.
“You try to build them,” McClendon said. “The only way you do it is to test the waters from time to time. It wasn’t too good yesterday. We’ll keep building. He’ll continue to get better at it. It’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Smith has converted nine of 10 save opportunities since assuming the club’s closer role, though he showed signs of fatigue Saturday — his fourth appearance in a five-game span.
McClendon said he thinks Smith can pitch 60 or 65 innings this season.
Overuse, the manager said, “was one of the dangers of putting him in that role at such a young age. He’s getting better at it. He’s going to be just fine.”
McClendon wanted to stay away from left-hander Joe Beimel on Sunday, too, but the circumstances — extra innings — dictated otherwise.
Beimel retired the side in order in the 10th inning to earn the victory.
WHAT ABOUT RODNEY?
Struggling right-handed reliever Fernando Rodney warmed up in the bullpen during Sunday’s 10th inning, and McClendon said Rodney would have pitched the 11th if Franklin Gutierrez hadn’t won the game with a walk-off homer.
But Rodney’s future with the club is uncertain. The morning after he allowed two runs in the eighth inning of Saturday’s loss, McClendon was asked if he had any further thought about what to do with the 38-year-old with a 5.90 ERA.
“I do,” McClendon said, “and I’m not ready to share it yet.”
The Mariners continue their homestand with a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, beginning at 7:10 p.m. Monday. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.25 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for Seattle against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray (3-5, 2.72). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.