There are many ways a triple play can be performed; most of them are done with runners on first and second base. Typically, a ball hit to the shortstop or third baseman is fielded, the runner heading to third is forced out or tagged out, the ball is thrown to second base for a force play, and then finally to first to throw out the batter. Another common sequence (to the extent such plays can be called common) is a line drive to the shortstop or second baseman that is caught without the runners noticing, the runners then being forced or tagged out when they fail to tag up.
Triple plays are very rare, since a triple play requires at least two runners on base, no outs, and quick action from the fielders to perform. The unassisted triple play, a triple play where only one fielder handles the ball, is the least common type of triple play. Triple plays, even of the unassisted variety, are not extraordinarily difficult for major league fielders to achieve; their rarity is due to their dependence on specific circumstances arising in a game.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, there have been 664 triple plays in Major League Baseball from 1876 to September 2, 2006. Of those, 12 were unassisted. In the 2000s, the chance of seeing a triple play in a given inning has been less than 1 in 10,000.
Playing against the Boston Red Sox on July 17, 1990, the Minnesota Twins became the first (and 2006, only) team in baseball history to turn two triple plays in the same game. Despite these defensive heroics, the Twins lost the game 1-0.
2006 Major-League triple playsEdit
Two of the most recent triple plays occurred in the same building less than two weeks apart. On May 14, 2006, during a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota's Luis Castillo popped up a bunt attempt with two runners on in the bottom of the sixth inning. The ball was caught by Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko for the first out. Konerko then threw to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi covering first to double up Shannon Stewart who was on the move. Iguchi then threw to shortstop Juan Uribe covering second to triple off Nick Punto, also on the move. The play was the Sox's first since July 7, 2004 against the Angels and the first against the Twins since September 18, 1996.
Thirteen days later at the Metrodome, during a game between the Minnesota Twins and the Seattle Mariners on May 27, 2006, Seattle's Kenji Johjima hit a ground ball to Luis Castillo with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning. Castillo ran down Seattle's Adrian Beltre who was coming from first base, and tagged him out before throwing the ball to first baseman Justin Morneau to get Johjima out. Morneau quickly threw to third baseman Tony Batista who tagged Seattle's Carl Everett for the third out. Everett had come from second and overran third before deciding to stay at third, but by that time Batista was able to make the tag. Minnesota had not turned a triple play since its 1990 game against Boston.
On June 11, 2006 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, in a game between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Kansas City Royals, the Royals turned an unconventional triple play with the help of an umpire appeal. Tampa Bay led Kansas City, 1-0, in the top of the second inning with men on first and third when Rays right fielder Russell Branyan lofted a fly ball to shallow center field. Royals outfielder David DeJesus caught the ball and threw home trying to get the runner going to home plate, but it went over catcher Paul Bako's head and pitcher Scott Elarton, who was backing up the play, caught the ball. Rocco Baldelli tagged up at first and tried to make it to second base, where he was thrown out. Then, the Royals appealed to third-base umpire Bob Davidson that Aubrey Huff had tagged up before DeJesus caught the ball. Shortstop Angel Berroa threw to third baseman Mark Teahen, which completed the 8-1-6-5 triple play.
On September 2, 2006, the Rays produced the first ever  Major League triple play comprising a strikeout and two baserunners caught off base, against the Seattle Mariners. Tampa pitcher J.P. Howell struck out Raul Ibanez. Catcher Dioner Navarro fired the ball to shortstop Ben Zobrist, who tagged Adrian Beltre out. During that throw, Jose Lopez tried to go home from third, but Zobrist returned the ball to Navarro in time to put Lopez out at the plate, going in the scorebook as the first 2-6-2 triple play in MLB history.
The White Sox turned a triple play yet again on September 18, 2006, against the Detroit Tigers. With runners on first and second, Carlos Guillen lined out to third baseman Joe Crede. Crede then threw the ball to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, who stepped on second and tagged the runner coming from first base to complete the play.