If there's an art to the double play, what does it take to execute a triple play?
A whole lot of precision and one slow runner.
All of that combined in the first inning on Monday to lead to the 13th triple play in Twins history. It saved Martin Perez's bacon (for a while) and was the first of several warm and fuzzy moments for Twins fans in an 8-6 victory over the Yankees.
Let's take a look back.
Perez was scatter-armed from the start, walking DJ LeMahieu on four pitches then walking Aaron Judge to bring Edwin Encarnacion to the plate. Encarnacion, with 16 home runs at Target Field, trails only Salvador Perez for most home runs hit by an opposing player there.
On a 2-2 pitch, Encarnacion hit a ground ball toward third. A triple play can't be pulled off without the ball being hit to the perfect spot, and this one was. A ball that Luis Arraez had to move in and to his right to collect - and it put him on a straight line to the bag.
Arraez is primarily a second baseman. Only 60 of his 367 minor league games were at third. But he said he felt comfortable there and had no problems on the play as he stepped on the bag for out No. 1 then threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
"Yeah," Arraez said. "Actually, right before the ground ball was hit to me, Jonathan and I talked to each other, and I told him that if they hit it over here, I was going to step on third and throw the ball to him. That's exactly how it happened."
Because there's a level of synchronization that has to be achieved, a triple play won't happen unless you're ready to pull the trigger on it. Arraez could have stepped on third and threw to first for an easy double play and left Schoop out of it. But the two were scheming about getting three outs before the ball was hit.
There was a shift on for Encarnacion, so Schoop actually was on the third base side of the second base bag. But Schoop told Arraez before the at-bat started to trust in him that he would get to the bag in time to take the throw.
And everyone knows that Kent Hrbek can nearly outrun Encarnacion. Arraez just had to get the ball to Schoop as fast as possible. The opportunity was there, and Arraez and Schoop were ready.
"You've got to anticipate it," Schoop said. "Before the ball's hit, you've got to make the decision if you're going to do it or not. The ball was perfect, a little soft, so he could charge in and put it on the base and give it to me and turn the triple play."
Schoop is larger than your average second baseman and has a shortstop's arm. As Aaron Judge slid into second, Schoop caught Arraez's throw, turned, then unleased a rocket to Miguel Sano at first.
"Nobody runs faster than the ball," Schoop said. "That's why I like second base."
Twins fans were spoiled by Brian Dozier turning double plays with ease in recent years, but Schoop's transition from catching to throwing is elite.
"I would have been totally happy if (Arraez) threw it across the diamond and we got two outs, but why not? Why not try?" Garver said. "We can throw it over to second base and Schoopy’s got one of the fastest turns in the league so get him the ball and give him a chance … even if Judge is safe at second, he’s got a chance to still get two there. So, great decision.”
Sano knows what a triple looks like. He was part of one in Anaheim in 2017 when a grounder was hit to him and he threw to Dozier, who turned to first and fired to Joe Mauer. So when Encarnacion's grounder when to Arraez, Sano was ready.
"When I saw him come get the ball at the edge of the grass, I said, 'Now we've got the chance for the triple play.' "Sano said. "We had told Arraez to be ready for the ground ball there. Big moment for us. We were so happy. I think that was the secret for the game. To get the triple play."
While it was the first triple play of Arraez's young career and the second of Sano's career, it was the third triple play for Schoop, who broke in the league with Baltimore in 2013 and played five-plus seasons there.
"I think it ranks No. 1 because I did one against Detroit and one against Boston, “Schoop said. "The one against Boston was a fly ball and it dropped and we turned a triple play. But the Detroit one was the same ground ball. Almost the same.
"But this one is ranked No. 1 because Martín, he had a little bit of a problem in the first inning. All the teams in the big league are good. But they're first place. We're first place. We want to show them and they want to show us. We want to show them we're good and to get Martín out of the inning was big."
The Twins dodged first-inning disaster, blasted two home runs in the bottom of the inning, and were on their way.