Three Times the Pain

May 31, 2000 the St. Louis Cardinals were at what was then Bank One Ballpark. The Cardinals and Diamondbacks were playing a four game series and on this Wednesday night it would be the third game of the series. St. Louis had won the first two games of the series and the Diamondbacks were looking to try and recover. There were some similarities between the 2009 Diamondbacks and the 2000 team. The first two games of the series Arizona had scored a total of 1 run while allowing 9 runs to St. Louis. This was a team that at times really struggled offensively. The expectations were very high for the 2000 Diamondbacks. They had won a franchise high 99 games the previous season and gone to the play-offs in only their second season. The team had been struggling and there was already talk that if the team did not turn things around that their manager Buck Showalter would be fired. The players were shouldering the blame but that didn’t seem to matter much if the team was not winning. It didn’t help that the Diamondbacks were playing the hard hitting St. Louis Cardinals led by Mark McGwire.

The Diamondbacks sent staff ace Randy Johnson to the mound that night and whenever the Big Unit pitched you were prepared to witness history; tonight was no exception. Randy began the game retiring the first 5 batters he faced before issuing a walk then striking out Mike Matheny to maintain his bid for a no-hitter. J.D. Drew singled in the third but was caught stealing. The Cardinals remained relatively in check through four innings and the Diamondbacks held a 3-0 lead going into the fifth thanks to timely hits by Steve Finley, Greg Colbrunn, and Turner Ward.

As Randy took the mound at the top of the fifth inning he faced pitcher Pat Hentgen and allowed him to single on a line drive to center field. The next batter was second baseman Placido Polanco who hit a ground ball through shortstop Tony Womack to put runners on first and second with no outs. Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria reached base on an error by Diamondbacks first baseman Greg Colbrunn to load the bases with no outs. St. Louis left fielder Shawon Dunston singled to right field which scored Hentgen and put Polanco on third, Renteria on second, and of course Dunston on first. This brought up Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire with an opportunity to hit a grand slam and put St. Louis ahead. I don’t mind telling you I was pretty nervous sitting in my seat watching this unfold. McGwire versus Johnson with the bases loaded and the game on the line. This is the kind of conditions fans dreams about. Randy threw the first two pitches for strikes putting McGwire in hole. What happened next will forever be etched in my memory. Randy threw what looked like a slider and McGwire swung driving the ball into mid-centerfield. Steve Finley circled around on the ball while Placido Polanco tagged at third base. When Finley caught the ball Polanco broke for home. Finley fired a bullet from centerfield that was caught by Diamondbacks catcher Damian Miller who tagged Polanco at home to record the double play. For whatever reason; Edgar Renteria was slow to react and did not tag to advance on the play. He subsequently tagged second and then began running for third base. Miller seeing him run threw down to shortstop Tony Womack who was covering third who tagged Renteria to record the third out and the first triple play in Diamondbacks history. I stood there with my mouth open trying to fathom what had just happened. The Diamondbacks appeared poised to blow the lead and move towards their third consecutive defeat. Instead they were running off the field maintaining a 3-1 advantage and had just recorded a most unorthodox triple play.

Now flash ahead to nearly 9 years to the exact date and the Arizona Diamondbacks again find themselves struggling offensively and the rumors are running rampant that manager Bob Melvin could be fired if the team does not turn things around. Arizona is this time at Dodger Stadium facing a red hot Los Angeles team who is pushing the Diamondbacks farther and farther down the standings with each passing day. Rather than having their ace on the mound; Arizona turned to Doug Davis to try and overcome the hot Dodger bats. The game did not start out well if you were a Diamondbacks fan. Davis gave up back-to-back home runs in the first inning to Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier to put the Dodgers ahead. It was the second inning though that held all of the interest. In the top of the inning Justin Upton walked. Eric Byrnes then hit into a potential double play but was able to beat it out. Catcher Chris Snyder singled to left field but Byrnes was running allowing him to reach third. Rookie Josh Wilson playing for the injured Stephen Drew hit a ground ball single to left scoring Byrnes and cutting the Dodger lead to 2-1. Doug Davis then hit into a double play on an attempted bunt to end the inning and to set up what would be a historic bottom half of the inning.

Doug Davis took the mound in the bottom of the second and walked Dodger catcher Russell Martin on 6 pitches. Los Angeles centerfielder Matt Kemp hit a ball to shortstop Josh Wilson that should have been a double play. Instead Wilson fumbled it and everyone was safe with Martin on second and Kemp on first with no outs. Dodger third baseman Casey Blake came to the plate and it looked as though Los Angeles was mounting yet another big inning. Davis battled Blake throwing 7 pitches. Finally Blake hit a line drive to shortstop on a cut fastball. This time Wilson made a great shoestring catch to retire Blake. Both Martin and Kemp were running on the play. Josh Wilson threw to second baseman Felipe Lopez who touched the base and threw to first baseman Conor Jackson who touched first to record the third out and the second triple play in Diamondbacks history.

Unlike the first triple play, this one did not motivate the Diamondbacks to greatness or a win. Instead the offensive woes and pitching troubles late in the game doomed the Diamondbacks to a 7-2 defeat by their divisional rivals. It was a somewhat bittersweet ending but it was still fun to watch it unfold. Considering how far off Martin and Kemp were, it may have been possible for Wilson to record all three outs himself but give him credit; he put team first and made sure of the outs. No matter what else happens he can tell his family and friends that he once began a triple play in Major League Baseball. There are not too many players who can say that.

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