CLEVELAND -- It's the Indians' own little version of the "Hail Mary" -- the last play of practice. Every day, as batting practice is winding down and the Tribe is about to trot back into the clubhouse for some pregame grub, infield coach Luis Rivera shoots third baseman Casey Blake a quick grounder near the third-base line. Blake dutifully scoops it up, steps on third and ignites a mock triple play. "We've been working on it," Blake said.
On Monday night, practice finally paid off in the form of the first triple play turned by the Tribe in 15 years. The Indians were clinging to a 7-3, seventh-inning lead against the Twins, who had runners at first and second with none out. Manager Eric Wedge turned to left-handed reliever Rafael Perez, who has had a knack for getting the timely ground ball this season. What followed was no ordinary 5-4-3 in the scorecard. Slow-footed catcher Mike Redmond hit a grounder to third that mirrored those smacked by Rivera. As the ball scooted toward the bag, Blake had two choices -- immediately throw to second to start what looked like a sure-fire double play, or take the extra moment to step toward the bag for the less-likely triple play. Blake liked his chances. "You try to stay ahead of the game," he said. "In that situation, [Redmond] isn't a speedster. Anything that's hit where I come in toward the bag, you might as well go for it. I visualized it exactly like it happened." Here's how it happened: Blake stepped on the bag to retire Michael Cuddyer, threw to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to get Jason Kubel out, and Cabrera fired to first baseman Victor Martinez, just in time to nab Redmond. "If it was hit at me or a step to my left, I'm not going to do that," Blake said of his decision. "If it was any ball that's going to take me in toward the bag, I was." Said Cuddyer: "[You can] probably count on one hand how many times Redmond has pulled the ball down the third-base line. Maybe even on three fingers. Hey, maybe their strategy worked. Well, obviously it worked." The play, which all but sealed the Tribe's eventual 8-3 victory, was as thrilling as it was rare. It was the first triple play turned by the Tribe since Aug. 7, 1992, at Baltimore. That one came when Ted Power got Brady Anderson to fly into a triple play that went from Kenny Lofton to Sandy Alomar to Carlos Baerga to Jim Thome. The last triple play in Jacobs Field was turned by a rival club. It came on Sept. 1, 2000, when Alomar popped into a 6-4-3 triple play. The last time the Indians turned a triple play on a ground ball came May 23, 1981, at New York. Rick Waite got Bucky Dent to ground into that one. The Indians became the first American League club to turn a triple play this season. The Rockies and Phillies have each turned one in the NL. "I can't remember the last time I've seen one," Wedge said. "It was good timing for us." And Blake finally had a reward for working on the play, time after time. "It was cool," Blake said. "It was a big boost for the team."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.