As Sean Murphy came to the plate with the New York Yankees clinging to a narrow 2-1 lead, Aroldis Chapman, the closer, had trouble controlling the baseball and had issued two walks. There were no outs on the scoreboard. It was the ninth inning.
Murphy is excellent against left-handed pitchers, and Chapman was battling a broken fingernail that was clearly affecting his ability to pitch. Yankeesâ€™ manager Aaron Boone opted to leave him on the mound.
â€œHe was just dealing with a little nail issue, and it was sore and bugging him. But he felt like he was fine to pitch,â€ Boone said to MLB.comâ€™s Betelhem Ashame, â€œand I didnâ€™t feel like — even though he obviously wasnâ€™t throwing strikes — I didnâ€™t feel like he was non-competitive, or â€˜We gotta get him outta here.â€™ And he absolutely felt like he wanted to stay in.â€
â€œWe were just trying to get Strike 1 there,â€ catcher Gary SÃ¡nchez said through an interpreter. â€œHopefully get ahead in the count, strike a guy out, follow that with a double play. But things worked out better than I expected.â€
And boy, did it work out for the Yankees. Murphy grounded out, not into a double play, but into a game-saving triple play that ended the game and ensured another series win.
The Yankeesâ€™ third triple play of the season gave them a victory
Gio Urshela took the hard grounder and quickly touched third base, threw to DJ LeMahieu at second, and he made quick pivot to nail Murphy at first and end the threat.
It was the third triple play for the Yankees in 2021 and we are still in June.
â€œIf youâ€™re around long enough, you see everything,â€ said Aâ€™s manager Bob Melvin. â€œIâ€™ve never seen a game end like that before. It felt like we had him on the ropes. We had a guy up there that is really good against left-handed pitching. He just ends up hitting it in the wrong spot. You donâ€™t see that very often.â€
Melvin is right: the Aâ€™s seemed to have Chapman on the ropes. But the baseball gods smiled at him on Sunday.
â€œItâ€™s incredible when you think about it. You can tell this to someone, they probably wonâ€™t believe it. They would need to see it to believe it,â€ Chapman said. â€œYou try to do the best you can to fight on the mound and get the job done as best as you can. â€¦ Like today, you find yourself in a spot where itâ€™s hard to believe youâ€™re going to get the job done, and then all of a sudden the game is over and you saved the game.â€