LOS ANGELES -- When Major League Baseball added instant replay to the equation this season, teams knew that unique situations could arise. Even so, it would have required a wild imagination to dream up the kind of play that unfolded on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
It took two strong throws combined with a pair of instant-replay challenges, but the Indians pulled off an improbable 7-2-4 triple play in the fourth inning of a 10-3 rout of the Dodgers. Michael Brantley to Yan Gomes to Jason Kipnis with an assist to the Replay Operations crew in New York.
Call it the Triple Replay.
"That was awesome," Indians right fielder David Murphy said. "I don't know if we'll ever see one like that again."
Baseball had certainly never seen anything like it before.
The play unfolded in the bottom of the fourth with runners on the corners and Adrian Gonzalez in the batter's box for the Dodgers, who were trailing, 5-3. Facing Indians rookie lefty Kyle Crockett, Gonzalez slashed a pitch to left field, where Brantley charged in to make the catch and promptly unleashed a throw to the plate.
Dee Gordon tagged up at third and sprinted home, but Brantley's throw arrived in time for Gomes, Cleveland's catcher, to apply the tag. The Indians' left fielder knew his relay to the plate was on target, but he did not assume that he had the fleet-footed Gordon nabbed.
"No, he's fast," Brantley said. "I was just trying to make the best throw I can, but obviously keep the ball down at the same time. You've got a guy on first, you don't want him to let him stroll into second. My whole goal was to keep the ball down and throw the best ball I could."
The runner on first base was Los Angeles' Yasiel Puig, who had already flashed his speed earlier in the game. In the first inning, Puig sent a pitch off the glove of a diving shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, sending the baseball bouncing into shallow left-center field. Puig bolted around first and sprinted into second for an unlikely double.
"Puig is all over the field," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That kid plays hard."
Puig saw an opening again in the fourth, when Gomes put his head down for a moment after tagging Gordon for the double play. The Dodgers right fielder sprinted for second base, but the Tribe's catcher looked up in time to make a hard throw to Kipnis. The Indians' second baseman applied the tag as Puig slid in head-first.
Puig was initially ruled safe.
"I thought I had him," Kipnis said. "So I called for the challenge."
That initiated a sequence that led to Cleveland's triple play.
First, Francona headed to the field to talk things over with second-base umpire Paul Nauert and -- after being given a thumbs up from bench coach Brad Mills in the dugout-- officially challenged the safe call. Following a review at the Replay Operations Center, Nauert's initial call was overturned and Puig was called out at second.
As the crowd erupted in a chorus of boos, and the Indians began to head off the field with a triple play in the books, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly emerged from the home dugout for a challenge of his own. Mattingly wanted to make sure that Gomes applied the tag on Gordon in time for an out at home plate.
"I was worried," Brantley said. "Obviously, they had a lot of time to look at it in their dugout. So once you challenge, I didn't know if I threw him out at home or not. I didn't actually see the throw. I kind of did a tumble and that was the last of it."
The umpires obliged and again consulted with the crew in New York. The out at the plate would stand as originally called, giving Cleveland a triple play. It took roughly three minutes to sort out the complicated sequence, but in the end it marked the first triple play for the Indians since April 3, 2011, against the White Sox.
Crockett laughed when asked if three outs on one swing is what he had in mind.
"It couldn't have gone any better," Crockett said. "That was awesome. It just shows the type of team effort that baseball takes. To have it all come together with the great from Brantley, the great throw from Yan. It was just incredible to be a part of."
It represented the first triple play at Dodger Stadium since Los Angeles completed one against the Padres on April 15, 2012. The Dodgers had not had a triple play turned against them since the Brewers accomplished the feat on Aug. 15, 2011.
This marked the second game in a row that instant replay had historical implications for Cleveland.
On Monday night, the Indians were held to just one hit in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers in the opener of this three-game series. That hit was an infield single by Michael Bourn, who was originally called out at first base. Francona also challenged that play, resulting in an overturned call that helped the Tribe avoid being no-hit by Dan Haren and the Dodgers.
"[MLB officials] explained to us early on that this exact thing could happen," Francona said, "and how'd they go about it and everything. You want to get the play right -- that's the most important thing."