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Astros turn first triple play since '91
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08/19/2004 9:31 PM ET
Astros turn first triple play since '91
Gamble pays off as Ensberg starts rare feat
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After forcing out Marlon Byrd at second, Jeff Kent fires to first to complete the triple play. (Jacqueline Larma/AP)
• Astros turn a triple play:  56K | 350K
• Astros rare feats page

PHILADELPHIA -- Morgan Ensberg heard plenty of noises coming from the dugout when he took a risk in the fifth inning of Thursday's game with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The noises ranged from grunts to moans to incredulous screams somewhere along the lines of, "What the heck are you doing?"

What Ensberg was doing, unbeknownst to his teammates, manager and coaches, was starting what Jeff Kent later described as "one of the three most exciting plays in baseball" -- a bases-loaded, 5-4-3 triple play.

"From the sound of things, you've got to be from California to try to pull something off like that," Ensberg, a native of Hermosa Beach, deadpanned. "That was the general consensus in the dugout."

That is, until it was executed flawlessly and rescued the Astros from what could have been a damaging big inning in a game Houston came back to win, 12-10.

With David Weathers on the mound and the Phillies riding a comfortable 7-2 lead, catcher Todd Pratt grounded sharply to Ensberg, who was playing closer than normal double play depth. Ensberg stepped on third and proceeded to confuse everyone when he turned and threw to Jeff Kent at second.

"My feet were in a different position because I wasn't ready to field the ball," Kent said. "I figured he was going to go home for sure, cut the run off at home. I was caught off guard a little bit."

"I saw him go to third base," said first baseman Mike Lamb. "And I was thinking, 'He'll throw home.' And then I was like, 'Well, I guess you can throw it to me.' Then he threw to second and I was like, 'What?'"

It didn't take long for Kent to figure out what Ensberg was thinking. Kent made the quick turnaround to Lamb at first, completing the Astros' first triple play in 13 years.

"I thought he was going to first and I yelled, 'What are you doing?'" manager Phil Garner said. "I was yelling at him, then I saw him go to second and I said 'Whoa, look out, we've got a triple play here.'

"They kept coming back and Lord only knows what happens if we don't get out of that jam just like that."

Strangely enough, Ensberg discussed the art of the triple play with hitting coach Gary Gaetti a week earlier.

   Morgan Ensberg  /   3B
Born: 08/26/75
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"We said, there are opportunities when you've got men on first and second or the bases loaded when if you get the right runner at home and you get the right ball, it's actually not that complex," Ensberg said. "It's only a rarity because you rarely get the opportunity on the ball being hit over there."

With the slow-footed Pratt at the plate, Ensberg thought this may be a good time to try it. So he inched a couple of feet closer to the plate and stayed close to the bag.

"Since you're up, there's an opportunity for a ball down the line," Ensberg said. "I said, 'If this ball is at least halfway between myself and third base, I'm going for it.'"

Despite initially receiving what was definitely not a ringing endorsement from the bench.

"You could tell there were sounds coming out of the dugout," Ensberg said. "And you know when the sounds are positive and kind of when they're a question mark."

He managed to ignore shouts of "Four!" and "What?" and "No!" while turing the Astros' first triple play since Mike Simms, Ken Caminiti and Andujar Cedeno combined for one in the fifth inning on Aug. 4, 1991 during a home game versus the Dodgers.

Lamb didn't know what to do with the ball once the play was complete. So he gave it to Weathers.

"I've never had one of those in Little League, my whole career, ever. I've never seen one, let alone be on the field for one," Weathers said, adding that he will keep the ball as a milestone momento.

"I keep all the balls like that," he said. "I have the one from my first win. I'm only 248 away from 300 [wins], so I kept that one."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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