Rangers pull off triple play vs. Tigers
Former Texas catcher Laird lines out with runners advancing
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been more aggressive with hit-and-run plays this season than at any other time in his Tigers tenure. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
On Wednesday, it led to history, when second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus teamed up for a triple play in the fourth inning of Texas' 5-3 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.
"When you put on a hit and run, that's the chance you take," Leyland said.
Brandon Inge's double and a four-pitch walk to Ryan Raburn put the runners on for Detroit, which had a chance to break open its early 1-0 lead against Texas starter Matt Harrison. Up came former Rangers catcher Gerald Laird, who just broke out of a hitting slump with five hits over his previous three games.
Leyland originally called for Laird to try to bunt the runners over to second and third, but he fouled off Harrison's first pitch when he squared around. Moreover, the Rangers were ready for Leyland to try something, rotating their infielders around as if to prepare for a bunt.
"They wanted to put a fake wheel and a pickoff play on," Leyland said, "so they had two guys close to second base. There's a lot of holes open, a lot of ground open ...
"They run the wheel and the fake wheel and the pickoff a lot in the National League because they involve the pitchers more. They normally don't do it with position players hitting, because they're more apt to take the swing. And the rule is, you never bunt into a wheel play. I thought there were some holes open and I put it on."
With all that ground open, Leyland decided to take a shot at letting Laird put the ball in play with the runners going.
"Gerald's been hitting a lot of balls on the ground," Leyland said. "He happened to hit a line drive, and if it's over five feet one way or the other, we have a run in and [runners at] first and third."
Instead, Laird's sharp liner went right to Kinsler, who flipped the ball to Andrus to tag second base for the second out on Inge. Once Andrus crossed the bag, he had a mere few steps to go to tag Raburn for the third out.
"It was basically luck," Kinsler said. "They were doing a double steal or whatever and the ball came right at me. It kind of fell in my lap."
It was such an easy play, in hindsight, that Kinsler might've been able to pull off the even rarer feat of an unassisted triple play. All he would've had to do is tag Raburn behind him before going on to touch second base.
The play happened so quickly, and Andrus was on it so early, that it didn't cross Kinsler's mind.
"Elvis was screaming at me, 'Give me the ball,'" Kinsler said, "so I flipped it to him."
With that, the Rangers had pulled off the fifth triple play in franchise history, and their first since April 14, 2002, when former Rangers pitcher and future Tigers starter Kenny Rogers induced a fielder's choice grounder from Seattle's Ron Wright. That play featured two run-downs on the basepaths for the final two outs.
The last conventional triple play the Rangers pulled off took place Aug. 6, 2001 at Boston. Scott Hatteberg's line out to Alex Rodriguez with runners on first and second allowed A-Rod to flip to second baseman Randy Velarde to tag second and then tag Chris Stynes.
The Tigers, meanwhile, hadn't hit into a triple play since Sept. 18, 2006, when Carlos Guillen hit into one against the White Sox at Chicago.
Wednesday's triple play proved especially timely once Taylor Teagarden drove in Marlon Byrd to tie the game in the fifth inning against Tigers ace Justin Verlander before Detroit's four-run rally in the sixth put it away.
"It was very big," Harrison said. "The score was 1-0 at the time, and when you can get three outs on one pitch, it's big."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.