NEW YORK - From shallow center field, Shane Victorino was frantically yelling to teammate Eric Bruntlett: "Touch everybody. Touch everything."
Afterward, Bruntlett said he wasn't certain if he heard anything. He was somewhat occupied at the time. The Phillies utility infielder was indeed touching everybody and everything, making history in the process.
In a blink, the second baseman pulled off one of the rarest occurrences in the wacky game of baseball - a game-ending unassisted triple play in a 9-7 win over the New York Mets yesterday at Citi Field.
It was the second time in the cockeyed history of the major leagues that a game ended on an unassisted triple play. The first was May 31, 1927, when Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun ended a game against Cleveland, but it's not likely Neun got the same sense of satisfaction as Bruntlett.
Bruntlett's triple play not only saved the day for closer Brad Lidge and the winning pitcher, starter Pedro Martinez. It also was redemptive for the seldom-used 31-year-old. After all, he helped create the mess he cleaned up after one swing of the bat by Jeff Francoeur.
"It really is true that when you think you've seen it all, you see something like that," Bruntlett said. "That was certainly the case today."
The Phillies led, 9-6, when Angel Pagan reached on a three-base error by Ryan Howard and scored when Bruntlett bobbled a grounder by Luis Castillo. Lidge had thrown only three pitches, and was in more trouble after Bruntlett couldn't get to a Daniel Murphy grounder in time to make a play.
"The first one, the ball just came up and hit me in the palm and I just couldn't hang onto it," Bruntlett said. "The other one was one of those strange balls up the middle and you're not real sure whether to go to the bag or go get the ball. It was obviously my ball."
That's when television cameras started focusing on Chase Utley in the dugout. The all-star second baseman had been given the day off by manager Charlie Manuel, so Bruntlett got his first start in more than a month.
With Francoeur at the plate, Castillo and Murphy took off on a double steal. Francoeur ripped a line drive up the middle, but Bruntlett had moved toward second to cover the bag. He speared the ball, stepped on second, then tagged Murphy. Game over.
"It was a crucial situation," Bruntlett said. "It was huge, especially because I was part of the reason we got into such a bad spot there in the ninth. So it feels extra special that it happened there to finish off the game."
The Mets "kept coming at us," he said. "Obviously, it wasn't looking real good for a minute, so to finish it off in dramatic fashion was great."
Standing a few feet behind Bruntlett, Victorino was just trying to help.
"I was right there," the centerfielder said, recalling his shouted advice and adding that "so many things led up to that play."
The Phillies had hit two three-run homers in the first inning off beleaguered starter Oliver Perez - by Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz.
Pagan had started the Mets' first with an inside-the-park homer. (Victorino thought Pagan's hit was an automatic ground-rule double because the ball had lodged under the wall in left-center field.) Pagan also homered his next time up.
The triple play enabled Bruntlett to settle a score with Francoeur. Bruntlett had three singles to raise his average from .128 to .154, and thought he had a triple with two out in the top of the ninth for his fourth hit.
But after a dispute, the umpires changed the call and ruled Bruntlett out. He had been robbed of his triple on a diving catch by - who else? - Francoeur.
Bruntlett hasn't had many busy days this season. He's a middle infielder who has the misfortune of playing behind Utley and Jimmy Rollins, who rarely get days off. And when he has played, he has struggled. But regardless of whether he ever plays again, Bruntlett made sure he won't be easily forgotten.
His unassisted triple play was only the 14th in the regular season in big-league history - a 15th occurred in a World Series game - and the first by a Phillie since Mickey Morandini pulled one off on Sept. 20, 1992.
"It was kind of a reaction, and after it was over, I was just trying to figure out what happened," Bruntlett said. "The opportunities I've had, I haven't done that well with them. So it was certainly nice to have a good day at the plate and end up feeling good about what I'm doing."
A Baseball Rarity: The Unassisted Triple Play
The 15 unassisted triple plays in major-league history (including the postseason):
Date Fielding Team Fielder Position Batting Team
July 19, 1909 Cleveland Naps Neal Ball SS Boston Red Sox
Ball caught Amby McConnell's line drive at second base; touched second to retire Heinie Wagner, who was on his way to third; then tagged Jake Stahl as he came up to second.
Oct. 10, 1920 Cleveland Indians Bill Wambsganss 2B Brooklyn Dodgers
In the fifth game of the World Series, Wambsganss caught Willie Mitchell's line drive, stepped on second to retire Pete Kilduff, and tagged Otto Miller, who was coming from first.
Sept. 14, 1923 Boston Red Sox George Burns 1B Cleveland Indians
Burns caught Frank Brower's line drive, tagged Walt Lutzke off first base, and ran to second and slid into the bag before Riggs Stephenson could return from third.
Oct. 6, 1923 Boston Braves Ernie Padgett SS Phillies
Padgett caught Walter Holke's line drive, stepped on second base to retire Cotton Tierney, and tagged Cliff Lee before he could return to first base.
May 7, 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates Glenn Wright SS St. Louis Cardinals
Wright caught Jim Bottomley's line drive, stepped on second to retire Jimmy Cooney, and tagged Rogers Hornsby coming from first.
May 30, 1927 Chicago Cubs Jimmy Cooney SS Pittsburgh Pirates
Cooney caught Paul Waner's line drive, stepped on second to retire Lloyd Waner, and tagged Clyde Barnhart, who was coming from first.
May 31, 1927 Detroit Tigers Johnny Neun* 1B Cleveland Indians
Neun caught Homer Summa's line drive, tagged Charlie Jamieson between first and second, and touched second before Glenn Myatt could return, ending the game.
July 30, 1968 Washington Senators Ron Hansen SS Cleveland Indians
Hansen caught Joe Azcue's line drive, stepped on second to double Dave Nelson, and tagged Russ Snyder, who was going toward second.
Sept. 20, 1992 PHILLIES Mickey Morandini 2B Pittsburgh Pirates
Morandini caught Jeff King's line drive up the middle, stepped on second to double Andy Van Slyke, and tagged Barry Bonds, who was standing near second.
July 8, 1994 Boston Red Sox John Valentin SS Seattle Mariners
Valentin caught Marc Newfield's line drive, stepped on second base to double Mike Blowers, and tagged Keith Mitchell.
May 29, 2000 Oakland Athletics Randy Velarde 2B New York Yankees
Velarde caught Shane Spencer's line drive, tagged Jorge Posada between first and second, and touched second before Tino Martinez could return.
Aug. 10, 2003 Atlanta Braves Rafael Furcal SS St. Louis Cardinals
Furcal caught Woody Williams' line drive, stepped on second to double Mike Matheny, and tagged Orlando Palmeiro, who was running back to first.
April 29, 2007 Colorado Rockies Troy Tulowitzki SS Atlanta Braves
Tulowitzki caught Chipper Jones' line drive, stepped on second to double Kelly Johnson, and tagged Edgar Renteria, who was headed to second.
May 12, 2008 Cleveland Indians Asdrubal Cabrera 2B Toronto Blue Jays
Cabrera caught Lyle Overbay's line drive, stepped on second to double Kevin Mench, and tagged Marco Scutaro, who was standing on second.
Aug. 23, 2009 PHILLIES Eric Bruntlett* 2B New York Mets
Bruntlett caught Jeff Francoeur's line drive, stepped on second to force Luis Castillo, and tagged Daniel Murphy, who was running from first, to end the game.
* - Game-ending triple play.
Sources: Associated Press and sabr.org, the Web site for the Society for American Baseball Research