As Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers demonstrated Friday night, San Francisco’s AT&T Park is a favorable place to hit a triple. According to the Bill James Handbook, AT&T Park had the highest park factor for triples in the major leagues in 2013. Entering Friday night’s games, more triples had been hit at AT&T Park this season than in any other stadium (37 in 3,879 plate appearances to 36 in 3,962 PA at Chase Field). Heck, there’s even a section of the outfield in San Francisco called Triples Alley. Still, AT&T has never seen an outburst of triples like it saw Friday night as the Dodgers became just the seventh team since the end of World War II, and first since 2011, to hit five triples in a game. Puig became just the third player since 1995, and the first since 2010, to hit three triples in a game.
Making his first start in center field since last September, Puig got things started for the Dodgers in the top of the first with a triple off the top of the outfield wall in left-center (confirmed by replay) off Giants starter Tim Lincecum. He then scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s subsequent single. In the fifth, with one out and Dodgers starter Zack Greinke on first via his own single, Dee Gordon and Puig hit back-to-back triples, with Gonzalez again singling to drive in Puig. A subsequent single by Hanley Ramirez drove Lincecum from the game with the Giants trailing 4-0.
Then, two batters later, with Juan Gutierrez on the mound, Matt Kemp hit the Dodgers’ third triple of the inning to plate Gonzalez and Ramirez and put L.A. up 6-0. The next inning, with two outs and Gordon on second via an infield single and a stolen base, Puig tripled again, this time off Gutierrez on a ball that, like his second triple, rolled toward the 421-foot sign in Triples Alley in right center. That made it 7-0 Dodgers, and while Puig would be stranded this time, the Dodgers would go on to win 8-1 behind a dominant outing from Greinke. Not to be outdone, Greinke struck out ten against one walk and four singles in seven scoreless innings. He even struck out four in the third inning alone when Hunter Pence reached base on a wild strike three to extend the inning.
The last team to hit more triples in a game than the Dodgers did Friday night was the 1925 Pirates, who hit a modern record of eight against the Cardinals in a 15-5 win on May 30 of that season. Here, meanwhile, is a list of the teams to hit five triples in a game since the end of World War II:
July 25, 2014
Aug. 16, 2011
Aug. 2, 1986
July 30, 1978
June 4, 1978
Aug. 7, 1974
July 27, 1958
As for Puig, his triples outburst buried what seemed like it was going to be the story going into the game: His season debut in center field. The identity of the Dodgers center fielder has been an issue of much debate due to the friction between manager Don Mattingly and deposed center fielder Kemp over the latter’s viability at the position. Mattingly stirred the pot further on Tuesday when he said he hadn’t considered using Puig in center because “he’s out of control most of the time” and “kind of scares the outfielders” with his aggressiveness, citing Puig’s poor communication with his fellow outfielders as well. As it turned out, Puig didn’t get a chance in the field until the top of the eighth, but he handled all three of his chances cleanly, including a nice, ranging catch on a Buster Posey drive near the wall for the first out of the ninth. He didn’t appear to menace either left fielder Carl Crawford or Kemp in right either.
By then, Puig’s fielding was an afterthought, as his three triples in one game tied a modern major league record held by 44 other men, including Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Ernie Banks, Nap Lajoie, Charlie Gehringer and Earl Combs, as well as Shoeless Joe Jackson. The last man to hit four triples in one game was Bill Joyce in 1897. The only other active players to hit three in one game are Denard Span, who did so for the Twins in 2010, and Rafael Furcal, who did so for the Braves in 2002. The list of the last ten players to hit three triples in one game reaches back more than 40 years:
July 25, 2014
June 29, 2010
April 21, 2002
Sept. 23, 1995
Aug. 15, 1990
July 28, 1990
May 16, 1981
Aug. 5, 1980
July 3, 1980
Sept. 22, 1973
Puig went 4-for-5 on Friday night. His other hit was a double in the third inning, with four extra-base hits giving him 11 total bases on the night. That gave him the ninth-highest total in a single game this season, with six of the eight men ahead of him on that list having compiled 12 total bases, including Charlie Blackmon in his six-hit game and Ryan Braun in his three-homer game. Only Chris Davis in his three homer game in late May and Lonnie Chisenhall in his season-best 15 total-base performance on June 9 have exceeded Puig’s total bases from Friday night by more than one this season.
Puig’s three triples on Friday night surpassed his major league total from last year by one and increased his season total to eight, moving him into a tie for the second most in the majors with the Rangers' Alex Rios and the Giants’ Brandon Crawford. Tops on that list: Gordon, who’s lone triple Friday night was his tenth of the year.
Incidentally, Friday night’s game also marked the Giants debut of Dan Uggla, who started at second base and hit seventh. Uggla went 0-for-2 before being double-switched out of the game when the Dodgers’ fifth-inning outburst chased Lincecum. Uggla, who has hit three triples in the last three seasons combined, was not among Greinke’s strikeout victims.