What is the Triple Play in Baseball/Softball?

A triple play is when a defensive team records three outs during the same defensive play. This can occur in a variety of ways, with the most common being the batter hit the ball into the field, as opposed to some sort of triple pick off play, which would be ridiculously rare.

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What conditions must be met to allow for a Triple Play?

There must be at least two offensive baserunners occupying bases and no outs in the inning in order for a defensive team to be able to turn a triple play. If either of those conditions aren't met, a team simply cannont turn a triple play.

Triple Play Example

Here is a common triple play scenario.

  1. Runners on first and second, with a hitter at home plate.
  2. The batter hits a hard ground ball to the third baseman.
  3. The third baseman fields the ball cleanly, stepping on third for the first out (forced) and throws to second base.
  4. The second baseman covering the bag catches the ball while stepping on second to record the second out (forced).
  5. The second baseman pivots and throws to first base for the third and final out of the triple play (also forced), which the first baseman needs to be catch without error.

There are many ways to pull off a triple play, and for that reason, there are no commonly referred to triple plays like there are with the double play. For example, the 6-4-3 double play or the 5-4-3 double play.

Are Triple Plays more rare than Double Plays?

Yes, triple plays are definitely more rare than a double play. One reason for the scarcity is because of the necessary conditions (no outs and 2-3 runners on base). Another reason is that the triple play requires far more precision, timing, and a whole lot of luck to enact.

Even in the 5-4-3 triple play that we described above, the defensive team needs to not only make the play cleanly, but also hope that the runners weren't sent in motion prior to the hitter's contact, thus improving the chances that the runners will reach safely. The defensive team also needs a hitter who isn't fast, as most speedy players - like leadoff hitters - will leg out the run from home to first before the triple play can be completed.

That's not a guarantee, as anything is possible. But a triple play truly takes luck.

Triple Play FAQs

Have any teams hit into two Triple Plays in one game?

Yes, the Boston Red Sox hit into two Triple Plays in 1990 playing against the Minnesota Twins. With runners on first and second, the Sox hit into a 5-4-3 Triple Play. Then, with the bases loaded, they hit into another 5-4-3 Triple Play later on.

What's more wild is that Boston followed this game up by grounding into the most double plays of all-time the next night against Minnesota, with 6.

What is the most common type of Triple Play?

The 5-4-3 Triple Play is the most common, occurring on 13.64% of all Triple Plays.

How many unassisted Triple Plays have there been?

There have been 15 unassisted Triple Plays in MLB History.

What was the first Triple Play?

On May 13th, 1876, The Mutuals pulled off the first Triple Play recorded while playing against the Dark Blues. The bases were loaded and it was a 4-3-4 Triple Play, meaning Second Baseman to First Baseman back to Second Baseman.

Who has the most recent Triple Play?

On September 20th, 2022, the Texas Rangers completed a 5-4-3 Triple Play against the Anaheim Angels with runners on first and second.

References & Sources