Bruntlett joins rare company
Turns only second game-ending unassisted triple play
NEW YORK -- Eric Bruntlett caught the ball, landed on second base in perfect stride and spun around to tag a bewildered Daniel Murphy.
Murphy had a look on his face that said, "No way. Did that really just happen?"
It had. Bruntlett had turned an unassisted triple play to end a 9-7 victory over the Mets at Citi Field on Sunday afternoon.
But after Bruntlett tagged Murphy, who made a futile attempt to get away, he still raised his glove and looked at second-base umpire Rob Drake for reassurance that the game had ended. Yes, Bruntlett caught Jeff Francoeur's line drive, which he scorched up the middle, for the first out. And, yes, he doubled up Luis Castillo on second base for the second out before he tagged Murphy to end the game.
"It's hard to know how to react to it," Bruntlett said. "I was almost laughing. That doesn't happen. What do you do there? Game is over. High fives."
It was just the 14th unassisted triple play in the regular season in baseball history. It was just the second unassisted triple play to end a game. Tigers first baseman John Neun turned the other against the Indians on May 31, 1927.
It was also just the second unassisted triple play among the 33 triple plays in Phillies history. Mickey Morandini recorded the first on Sept. 20, 1992, against the Pirates.
"That's great," Jimmy Rollins said. "Bruntly is in the books."
"It was the most unbelievable play I've ever been involved in," Francoeur said. "And the sickest."
It completed a memorable afternoon for Bruntlett, who entered the game hitting just .128 with six RBIs. He got a rare start because Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wanted to give Chase Utley a day off. Bruntlett responded with hits in his first three at-bats. He popped out in the seventh inning, but appeared to reach third on a triple with two outs in the ninth inning.
It would have been the first four-hit game of his career.
But Drake incorrectly ruled that Francoeur did not catch Bruntlett's ball in right-center field. After the Mets protested, the umpires convened and correctly ruled that Francoeur made the catch. Bruntlett finished 3-for-5.
Unassisted triple plays
Bruntlett quickly forgot about his near miss when Ryan Howard let Angel Pagan's ball get between his legs for a three-base error and he booted a ball Castillo hit to him, which allowed Pagan to score to cut the lead to two.
Murphy followed Castillo and hit a ball up the middle. Bruntlett tried to slide to make the catch, but he couldn't come up with it.
Both Manuel and Rollins said that was a difficult play to make.
But the damage had been done. The Mets had runners on first and second with no outs in a two-run game. It looked like Phillies closer Brad Lidge's misfortune would continue, except the Mets made a critical error.
They tried a double steal in a situation that didn't warrant it.
"I'm thinking that wasn't smart baseball," Rollins said.
Not that the Mets considered losing the game on a triple play, but Bruntlett acknowledged that having the runners in motion made that impossibility a possibility. Had the Mets not been stealing, Bruntlett said he almost certainly would not have caught Francoeur's ball. Had he not caught it, the Mets at the very least would have had the bases loaded with no outs.
"It was a crucial situation," Bruntlett said. "It was huge, especially when I was part of the reason that we got into a bad spot there in the ninth. It feels extra special to have that happen there to finish off the game."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.