PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates celebrated Mother's Day one day early with the mother of all pitchers' best friends -- the triple play -- but this time it was a historic one, the first 4-5-4 triple play ever seen in the Major Leagues.
With Cardinals on second and third and none out in the second inning of Saturday's 7-5 win at PNC Park, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker caught Yadier Molina's rising liner within feet of the second-base bag, left vacant by baserunner Jason Heyward.
Quick thinking served Walker better than quick feet would have: Had he done the instinctive thing and stepped on second, the Bucs would not have made history.
"Everything was in front of me. I could see how close the guy was to third, and that the guy on second wasn't trying too hard to make his way back," Walker said. "If I step on second, we don't get the guy on third."
So Walker instead pegged to third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who stepped on third to retire Jhonny Peralta, then ... turned to sprint into the Pirates' dugout?
"He looked like he was about to throw the ball into the stands," manager Clint Hurdle said, starting to break into a grin. "We got his attention and told him to go ahead, finish it off."
Got his attention? How?
"Everybody in [the dugout] was yelling at him," Hurdle said. "In multiple languages."
Kang confirmed that it was indeed the first time he had ever been part of a triple play.
"Maybe [Kang] felt I'd already stepped on the [second-base] bag," Walker said. "I don't know, but he turned, then everybody started yelling at him. Fortunately, Heyward didn't come flying back."
Molina had ripped the first pitch to him from Vance Worley. Peralta and Heyward both expected the ball to clear Walker's head, and thus took off.
"Just trying to get a good jump on the ball, being aggressive," Heyward said. "It was on me. It's my bad on that one. I just think Jhonny said he had to go on contact there, so that's part of it."
"Not to say [Heyward] made a terrible decision," Walker said, "but you do want to make sure the ball goes through. I don't know if they saw the flight of the ball differently -- but it got us out of a trouble inning, and we made a pretty special play out of it."
The play kept the game scoreless, and the Bucs came right back by scoring three runs in the bottom of the second.
The Bucs had turned a more "routine," around-the-horn triple play last Sept. 14 against the Cubs: Josh Harrison to Walker to Andrew Lambo (who was playing his first career game at first base, incidentally).
The Cardinals had last hit into a triple play on Aug. 10, 2003.