Monday, March 15, 2010

Triple Play

Three Red Sox items caught my eye today. First there was yesterday's article by Amalie Benjamin discussing the surmised tension between Mike Lowell and his replacement at third base Adrian Beltre. According to Beltre, Lowell is too classy to make him feel uncomfortable, and according to Lowell, "no comment". Then you had Lowell scheduled to play first base today,* in essence a mating dance to show teams on the prowl he can still perform. Third, there was the oh-sugar-not-again slump of Ortiz who was 1 for 19 going into today's exhibition game against the Orioles.

Three seemingly unrelated events, until this pinkhat did a little investigating. Maybe it's because Sox fans are excited to see just how awesome Beltre is, but still feel loyalty to Lowell, a standup guy and a really talented player whose body has let him down in the past year. Maybe it's because Sox fans can still feel the heat of the trigger from last year when Big Papi went 40 games and 149 at bats without a home run (not you Dave, everyone knows your faith never wavered). Whatever the reason, bluehats had a triple maneuver worked out in their heads. Beltre would play third, Mike Lowell would become DH, and Ortiz would go bye-bye.

Lowell hit a single at his first at-bat today (and this season). Ortiz hit a two-run homer. Plan over?

In case you didn't watch the game, or catch the rundown of the week's ten hottest sports plays on ESPN, there was quite the actual triple play this weekend in the exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Sox were ahead 3-2 in the ninth, but the Pirates had men on first and second. Gorkys Hernandez lined out, in other words hit a line drive that was caught, or in other words hit a ball without any arc directly at a player who then took his life in his hands and caught the ball for an out. In this case it was shortstop Jose Iglesias that made the catch, tossing the ball to second basemen Tug Hulett for out number two. Then Hulett tried to throw to first basemen Aaron Bates and missed... luckily catcher Dusty Brown backed up the play and tossed the ball to Bates who tagged the plate for out number three to end the game.

Follow the ball in your head for a moment (and if this is obvious to you, pretend your head has a pink hat on it). The runner headed to first base is out with the catch, but the other two outs occur at second and first base. Um, why? I know that runners have to tag up in certain situations, but it never seemed worth it to ask what those situations were and have Dave's long-winded explanation ruin my peanuts. Time to end my ignorance- here goes nothing!

According to my handy-dandy guide Watching Baseball Smarter, players might advance bases because they are forced to, for example a player gets onto first, forcing the player that was on first to move to second. When there are less than two outs and a batted ball is caught on a fly, before it bounces, runners are no longer forced to advance so they must return to their bases- tag up- and can only advance after the ball is touched by the fielder.

Triple plays are pretty rare during the regular season. Since 1876, the Society for American Baseball Research reports 678 triple plays in the major leagues. There were four last season and only two in 2008. Normally I would make fun of the Society for American Baseball Research. I might call them the Society for American Nerds or wonder who stole their baseball cards when they were a kid, but I've already stubbed my toe and banged my funny bone tonight.

And things are happening in triplicate.

*Lowell has not played first base since a 4 game trial in 1998 when he played Class AAA ball in Columbus.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are already a bluehat. Certainly a baseball geek ;-) Congrats.