The Yankees are threatening to make the improbable look routine this season.
They capped a 2-1 comeback victory over Oakland on Sunday by turning their third triple play in 31 days, this one a game-ender.
Aroldis Chapman put himself on the tightrope by walking Jed Lowrie and Tony Kemp on nine pitches to start the ninth inning. He fell behind Sean Murphy 1-and-0, making it nine balls in 10 pitches.
Then Murphy hit a hard grounder to third base and Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu and Chris Gittens turned a 5-4-3 triple play to preserve the victory before 27,807 at the Stadium.
It was the second triple play turned by the Yankees in four days and second 5-4-3 triple play with Chapman on the mound in a month. Only eight teams have turned three triple plays in a season in the modern era.
After fielding the ball, Urshela needed to take only one step to his right to record the first out. LeMahieu’s throw to first was in plenty of time to retire Murphy.
"I got a pretty good line of sight to it," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "As soon as he hit the ball — usually a triple play sneaks up on you — I’m like, ‘That’s a triple play.’ And sure enough, Gio does a great job [on a] perfect feed [and] DJ is able to turn it over . . . It’s exciting to be a part of that when it ends . . . a tight game."
"It’s incredible," Chapman said through an interpreter. "You could tell somebody about these [three] and they would not believe it."
The Yankees would not have been in a position to end the game at that point if not for Gary Sanchez. With runners on first and second in the sixth after two walks, he drove an 0-and-2 fastball from A’s lefty Sean Manaea into the gap in right-center to drive in Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge for the 2-1 lead.
Sanchez, who also doubled to right-center off Manaea in the first to account for two of the Yankees’ three hits, has a .344/.408/.719 slash line with 14 RBIs in his last 20 games.
"I have the ability to hit the ball the other way," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I feel like it’s when my swing is at its best. I can cover the inside of the plate and the outside of the plate."
"Just watch the at-bats, the competitiveness every pitch," Boone said. "Even on the [fourth-inning] pop-out today, he’s all over the pitch. He’s on time [and] making really good decisions.
"It doesn’t mean you’re always going to get results, but you know it’s not an accident. Now he’s getting really good results because he’s in the fight every pitch. He’s under control, he’s balanced and, when those things happen, his talent comes out."
It was the Yankees’ fifth win in six games, and they had to come back in each of them.
Jordan Montgomery pitched well into the sixth, allowing only Matt Olson’s two-out homer into Monument Park in the first inning. He exited with runners at first and second and one out in the sixth, and Jonathan Loaisaga (7-2) induced two grounders before throwing a scoreless seventh.
With Zack Britton experiencing what Boone called "soreness," Lucas Luetge pitched a scoreless eighth. Matt Chapman had a one-out triple, but Luetge struck out Olson and got Ramon Laureano to fly out.
After Chapman allowed the two walks in the ninth, he was briefly attended to on the mound by the training staff for what he described as a broken nail on his middle finger. Two pitches later, he had his 16th save.
Said Chapman, "That play saved the game."
Notes & quotes: The 5-4-3 triple play was a lot more routine than the one the Yankees turned Thursday — 1-3-6-2-5-6, the only time that’s occurred in MLB history . . . The Yankees optioned Gittens to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game. His roster spot will be filled Tuesday when first baseman Luke Voit (oblique strain) comes off the 10-day injured list . . . Reliever Darren O’Day (rotator cuff strain) confirmed that he will go on a minor league rehab assignment beginning on Tuesday . . . Reliever Justin Wilson (hamstring strain) threw in the bullpen before the game and Boone said he likely will begin a minor league rehab assignment later this week.