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04/03/11 4:50 PM ET

Triple play turns tide toward Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana is still learning the nuances of playing first base for the Indians, so any advice offered by someone like veteran infielder Orlando Cabrera is more than appreciated.

In the fourth inning of the Indians' 7-1 victory over the White Sox on Sunday, Cabrera told Santana to move in a few steps after Alexei Ramirez misfired on a bunt attempt. Santana heeded the advice and then sprinted toward home plate when Ramirez squared around for a second try.

That is when Santana's debut as a big league first baseman took an historic turn.

Santana made a spectacular diving grab on an errant bunt by Ramirez, setting a triple play in motion for Cleveland. In what was a slow-developing play, Santana and the Tribe pulled off three outs on one play by retiring two overly-aggressive baserunners after Santana's catch.

"I wanted the triple play," Santana said with a smile. "That was nice. Fantastic."

It was the first triple play turned in baseball since Seattle accomplished the feat against Oakland on Aug. 9 of last season. For the Tribe, it represented the first trifecta since Asdrubal Cabrera pulled off the unassisted variety against the Blue Jays on May 12, 2008.

turning three
A look at the 10 most recent triple plays in the big leagues:
Date Team Opponent
04-03-2011 CLE CWS
08-09-2010 OAK SEA
06-10-2010 SD NYM
05-19-2010 NYM WAS
04-22-2010 NYY OAK
09-06-2009 MIL SF
08-23-2009* PHI NYM
05-20-2009 TEX DET
05-04-2009 ARI LAD
04-12-2009 PIT CIN
* Unassisted

The latest came at a critical turn, considering the White Sox had A.J. Pierzynski on first base and Carlos Quentin on second with a 1-0 lead over the Indians. Even after falling short on his first bunt attempt against righty Justin Masterson, Ramirez opted to try to move both runners into scoring position.

"I'm thinking about, 'Hey, let's get a double play here,'" Masterson said. "Minimize what damage could occur. You don't even expect a triple play."

Orlando Cabrera -- signed over the winter to be Cleveland's starting second baseman -- told Santana, who is normally the Tribe's catcher, to shade in against Ramirez. The handful of steps paid off, especially since Santana needed a head-first dive to snare the baseball out of the air for an out.

By the time Santana made the catch, Pierzynski had run to second and Quentin to third. Santana shifted to his feet and flipped the baseball to Orlando Cabrera, who stepped on first base to double up Pierzynski. Orlando Cabrera continued to stand on the bag, though, appearing to settle for two outs.

"I didn't know that Quentin ran to third base, too," Orlando Cabrera said. "They told me that everybody was yelling at me, 'Second! Second!' I was like, 'Why?' Then, I looked up and I tossed the ball over there. It was an amazing play by Carlos."

While Orlando Cabrera stood idly on first base, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tried to shout orders from the visitors' dugout.

"Nobody knows what to do," Guillen said. "I was screaming from the bench and I don't know what I was saying. 'Stay there. No, come here.'"

The players on Cleveland's bench were yelling instructions, too.

"Everybody needed a little help from the bench," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They were just happy with the double play and kind of stood around first base just looking around. The whole dugout kind of helped out with that last out. It's a team effort."

Orlando Cabrera eventually relayed the baseball to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who stepped on second base to retire Quentin.

"It was kind of slow motion," Masterson said. " It was kind of like, 'Uh, throw it to first.' Once he's got it, it was like, 'Uh, throw it to second.' We were a little confused as it went, but it worked out great."

After the third out was in the books, the crowd inside Progressive Field roared and the Indians ran off the field on the heels of a play that shifted the game's momentum toward the Tribe.

"I think that triple play changed the game," Guillen said.

Acta agreed.

"A triple play is such an emotional play," Acta said. "It carries energy into the dugout right after that. You go from having first and second with no outs, a potentially huge inning for them, to one pitch, three outs. It lifts everybody's spirit coming into the dugout."

In the sixth inning, Orlando Cabrera -- a part of two triple plays during his time with the Montreal Expos -- belted a two-run home run that pushed the Indians to a 2-1 lead. Cleveland poured on five more runs before the end of the afternoon.

"Any time you can get out of an inning with three outs on one play," Orlando Cabrera said, "you've got to come back and respond."

Both Cabreras -- Orlando and Asdrubal -- have now been a part of three triple plays apiece. Asdrubal turned the unassisted triple play in 2008 and he was also included in the one Cleveland pulled off in 2007 against the Twins. Sunday's triple play was the fourth overall in Progressive Field history.

For the White Sox, it was the first triple play against them since the Blue Jays pulled off the feat on April 22, 1978. In all, Chicago has hit into 21 triple plays in its team history, while Cleveland has turned 31. Only the Tigers (33) have turned more triple plays than the Indians in American League history.

"It was just a great play," Indians catcher Lou Marson said. "It helped. It was a huge play in the game."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.