Carlos Rodón came oh-so-close to a perfect game on Wednesday night, settling instead for a no-hitter after he hit Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez with a pitch in the ninth inning, two outs away from what would have been the first perfecto in the majors since Félix Hernández’s in on August 15, 2012.
Even rarer than a perfect game is the unassisted triple play, which last happened on August 23, 2009, when Eric Bruntlett of the Phillies caught a line drive from Jeff Francoeur, stepped on second to cancel Luis Castillo, and tagged out Daniel Murphy to finish a 9-7 win over the Mets.
That’s what you think of when you think of an unassisted triple play: runners on first and second, double steal attempt, line drive to a middle infielder, two outs at second base.
Here’s Asdrúbal Cabrera’s trifecta from 2008.
The last eight unassisted triple plays have all been of this variety, a second baseman or shortstop catching a line drive, touching second base, and tagging the runner — except for Randy Velarde’s in 2000: he caught a line drive, tagged the runner, then touched second.
Only two of MLB’s unassisted triple plays have been turned by first basemen: George Burns of the Red Sox on September 14, 1923, against Cleveland, and Detroit’s Johnny Neun on May 31, 1927, also against Cleveland.
Cleveland, already having barely avoided the history books once this week, did so again on Saturday in Cincinnati, where Joey Votto had an opportunity for an unassisted triple play in the eighth inning, but passed it up for a still remarkable but less historic conventional treble.
Had Votto held the ball, it could have been the first triple play in major league history not involving a touch-up of second base, as both Burns and Neun caught line drives, tagged the runner from first base, and then ran to second for the final out.
There wasn’t even a steal attempt on the play. Josh Naylor simply hit a laser that Votto snared. He dove back to first base to tag Franmil Reyes, then looked up and saw that Eddie Rosario had crossed the plate, thinking he’d scored a run and unaware that Votto had made the catch. Votto could have walked to third base to record the out on Rosario, but he threw across the diamond to Max Schrock to complete the still exceedingly rare 3-3-5 TP.
Votto wasn’t the only player on the Reds to leave something on the table in a way that doesn’t spoil the outcome at all. In the 10th inning, Tyler Stephenson hit what could have been a walk-off ground-rule double, but stopped running at first base, just as Ty France did in the Mariners’ win over the Astros on Friday — the modified Robin Ventura Special.