Triple play doesn't undo defensive miscues

BOSTON -- Lowrie to Pedroia to Gonzalez.

That grouping may not have the history of Tinkers to Evers to Chance of Chicago Cubs fame.

But the Red Sox trio has one up on those Cubs, who were known for their double plays. One up in the form of a triple play.

Third baseman Jed Lowrie, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez turned a ground ball into a rare 5-4-3 triple play in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the second game of the day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park.

Lowrie fielded the ground ball, stepped on third base for a forceout and threw to Pedroia at second base for the second out. Pedroia made a quick turn and zipped a strong relay throw to Gonzalez for the third out.

“It was pretty cool,” Lowrie said with a smile. “That was the first triple play I’ve ever seen, never mind been a part of. It’s one of those plays in baseball that you don’t get to see very often or be part of. It’s exciting.”

“The fans got a kick out of it,” Gonzalez said.

On a night when the sellout crowd of 38,278 witnessed Boston’s first triple play since shortstop John Valentin turned an unassisted triple play on July 8, 1994, against Seattle, the fans also saw some questionable Red Sox defense, which gift-wrapped Seattle two unearned runs and another one because of a botched rundown.

But let’s start with the bright note.

The Rays had runners at first and second with none out when Sean Rodriguez stepped into the batter’s box. Lowrie, playing third base, knew what he would do if the ball was hit to him.

“I was thinking if I got a ground ball I would step on third and throw to first [for a double play],” Lowrie said.

Rodriguez hit a sharp two-hopper to Lowrie at the bag. Suddenly Lowrie’s game plan changed.

“I just reacted to it. It was perfect for a triple play,” Lowrie said. “I know Pedroia is one of the best at turning it. I got him the ball quick and on target, so I knew he had a chance to turn it.”

Whatever Pedroia was thinking will remain with him for the time being because he didn’t make himself available after the game. But Gonzalez could see what was unfolding.

“As soon as I saw Lowrie got it, I knew we would have a shot,” Gonzalez said. “It was just a matter of executing some throws and we did.”

There were a couple of other plays that the Sox didn’t execute so well.

In the second inning, with runners at second and third and one out, Lowrie fielded a ball to his left and decided to try to cut down the runner, Ben Zobrist, at the plate. A good throw would have had him, but Lowrie’s throw didn’t reach catcher Jason Varitek. It short-hopped him, permitting the run to score and leading to two unearned runs and a 2-0 Tampa Bay lead. It was Lowrie’s team-leading 13th error.

In the eighth, with the Sox down 4-2, Boston was unable to get an out when the Rays, with runners at first and third and one out, tried a double steal. B.J. Upton was trapped off first base, but when shortstop Mike Aviles ran Upton back toward first, Zobrist broke from third toward home.

Aviles pulled up and took one step toward Zobrist instead of running right at him and forcing him to commit to running back to third or to the plate. Then Aviles threw behind Zobrist, to third base. Seeing the throw go behind him, Zobrist raced home and Lowrie’s rushed throw hit him in the back, accounting for another run.

While manager Terry Francona absolved Aviles of any blame, Aviles admitted he could have done things differently.

“I saw him take a step back to third so I threw. He was in no man’s land. If I had taken a couple more steps toward him, maybe he would have committed. But if the throw hadn’t hit him on the back [he would have been out],” said Aviles.

Lowrie did everything he could on the play.

“I tried to move to give myself a throwing lane. [Zobrist] was running on the inside lane, but when Tek slid over, [Zobrist] slid toward the outside lane and the ball hit him. It was like a magnet,” Lowrie said.