The Cardinals put on a wheel play -- with the shortstop going to third and the second baseman to first -- with Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez squaring to bunt. The bunt popped into the air to third baseman Matt Carpenter.
"I saw the bunt popped up, and I noticed Volquez hadn't really gotten out of the box," Carpenter said. "So initially my thought was to let it drop and to try to get a double play out of it."
Carpenter, though, threw to an unoccupied second base with both infielders going opposite directions.
"The mistake I made was forgetting there was nobody at second base," Carpenter admitted afterward.
The rarity came when center fielder Jon Jay, running in from the outfield, scooped up the rolling ball and raced to second to complete the odd 5-8 forceout.
"That's just a heads-up play wanting to make something happen," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was heads-up with Carp, too, except for the fact remembering what bunt play we had on and whether we do have coverage at second base."
The Cardinals avoided an error and got the out, but the Pirates ultimately scored four runs in the inning on their way to a 9-1 victory. The play, however, provided a highlight.
"Probably the three strangest plays in a row I've ever seen," Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said referring to the infield single and Lyons' throwing error that preceded the forceout.
Even 56-year-old Pirates manager Clint Hurdle couldn't remember seeing a play like that throughout his many years in baseball.
"Maybe in sandlots somewhere," Hurdle said. "But never in a Major League game."
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.