Tampa Bay led Kansas City, 1-0, in the top of the second inning on Sunday with men on first and third when Rays right fielder Russell Branyan lofted a fly ball to shallow center field.
David DeJesus settled under the ball and threw wildly home in an attempt to nab Aubrey Huff, who had appeared to tag up from third. The ball sailed over catcher Paul Bako's head, but was picked up by 6-foot-7 pitcher Scott Elarton, who was backing the play.
Rocco Baldelli then tried to tag up from first base, but was thrown out at second by Elarton. The crowd showed its appreciation at what was already an impressive double play. That was when things got bizarre.
The Royals appealed to third-base umpire Bob Davidson that Huff had tagged up before DeJesus caught the ball. Shortstop Angel Berroa threw to third baseman Mark Teahen.
"I thought we initially had a play at the plate anyway, but [DeJesus] airmailed it and Scotty was in position," Bell said. "Of course, looking at everything from the angle I had, I couldn't tell that he left early."
The appeal was granted.
Rays manager Joe Maddon and third-base coach Tom Foley pleaded their case with Davidson, but he was unwavering in his decision.
"It got us out of a pretty big jam early," Kansas City first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said.
The putout on the appeal was included as part of the triple play because of Rule 10.12, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. An appeal putout is part of a triple play if the ball, when in possession of the pitcher, results in an additional putout.
In the end, what transpired went as the sixth triple play in Royals franchise history. Elias also said that it was the first time Tampa Bay has hit into a triple play since the club began play in 1998.
Catcher John Buck, who was not in the lineup on Sunday, didn't shrug off the feat. But he is no stranger to triple plays from his time in the Houston Astros' system.
"I think we had two of them in one year at New Orleans," Buck said. "But this one was kind of unique."