Tigers turn franchise's 1st triple play since '01

Tigers turn franchise's 1st triple play since '01

TORONTO -- The Tigers turned their first triple play in 16 years in Friday's 5-4 win over the Blue Jays, halting what looked like a Toronto rally in the bottom of the sixth inning.

With runners on first and second base and one run already in, Kevin Pillar drove a ground ball down the third-base line with an exit velocity of 106.2 mph, according to Statcast™. It was right at Jeimer Candelario, who stepped on the bag and threw to Ian Kinsler for the second out. Kinsler then fired to Efren Navarro at first, just narrowly beating out Pillar for the triple play.

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Candelario was ready, too, after a timely shout across the infield from the veteran Kinsler.

"Kinsler told me, 'Let's be ready for the triple play. Let's do a triple play,'" Candelario said, "So I was prepared, man. I said, 'If he gives me a grounder to the other side, you're going to do this.' On the second pitch he did, and we took advantage."

Jose Bautista had struck out swinging to lead off the inning, but reached on a passed ball and was ultimately driven home by Kendrys Morales to cut Toronto's deficit to 4-2 and end the night of Tigers starter Buck Farmer. Reliever Drew VerHagen entered and quickly forced the triple play, which closed the book on a strong performance from Farmer without any further damage.

"I thought the most impressive part of the triple play was the fact that Pillar was running," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "That's a guy that can run. It's tough to turn triple plays, especially a natural triple play like that. Granted, he hit the ball on the screws. Candelario did a nice job getting back to his feet, touching the base and making the throw."

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was equally impressed. After late home runs from Bautista and rookie shortstop Richard Urena left Toronto with just a one-run loss, the triple play ultimately loomed large.

"Right off the bat, you're thinking, 'OK, maybe that ball's down the corner and we're sitting on a big inning,'" Gibbons said. "He made a hell of a play and you don't expect to get it off a guy like Pillar, too, who can run. That was a big part of the game, no doubt."

Detroit's last triple play came back on Aug. 1, 2001, in a 7-1 loss to the 116-win Mariners. Damion Easley, Deivi Cruz and Shane Halter combined to turn three on a line drive off the bat of Mark McLemore.

This was the ninth time in the Blue Jays' history that they have hit into a triple play, and the first since July 26, 2015, also against the Mariners.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto and covered the Tigers on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.