Baseball Umpires’ Learning Blog

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Does the run count?

Jack Kroger replied to another section of the blog asking the following situation. I felt that this was one of those situations that might make you think a bit. Here it is:

‘Bases are loaded with one out. A fly ball hit to the outfield is caught legally (two outs). After the ball is put back in play, the defensive team appeals that the runner left second early. The umpire agrees and called the runner going from second to third out on the appeal. Does the run scored by the runner from third count?’

Kimball answer: The run scores. On caught balls, there is no force so all runs count that score before the base (or offending runner) is touched/tagged. This is commonly called a time play even though this is a bit easier than the time play when a runner scores at almost the exact same time as another runner is tagged for the third out. Unless the runner is forced to advance and hasn’t yet touched the base to which he is forced to advance when he or the base is touched, all preceding runs count that are scored before the third out occurs. Remember, your decision must be based on the time of the tag, not when the umpire signals the out. Failure by a runner to touch a base and being called out on appeal can muddy the water a bit. If the player was forced to advance to that base, the third out is a force play (runner must go there due to the batter becoming a runner) and no runs score even if they touched the base way before the player is called out on appeal. One other thing, an apparent fourth or fifth out can occur if a team gets a third out on appeal and wishes to appeal another runner to prevent a run from scoring. Have I confused anyone yet?

Kid Tag Play

The above picture could represent a time play if there are two outs and a runner is about to score. Please comment by clarifying my answer and/or sharing some other interesting appeal plays or ‘run counts’ situations.

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April 2, 2008 - Posted by | Knotty Problems, Rules | , , ,

30 Comments »

  1. I see many ummpires signal time play when there is a man on second base with two outs. By definition, this certainly is a time play. My comment is tha tthere is a much more likley time play occurring when there is a runner on first. the man on second is going to score easily a potential double. The only situation wher eI can think of a time play with a man on second would be a throw behind by a shallow right fielder and the batter runner rounds the bag. any other situations?

    Comment by Barry Fuller | April 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Barry, that is nice observation you make about the runner on first being involved in a time play, and we don’t always consider that possibility. Thanks for the reminder. To answer your question about other possibilities for a time play with a runner on second, I had a play last year in a JV game with two out and a runner on second. The batter hit a slow roller to third, but the throw went past the base to the fence. The runner on second barreled around third when the ball got loose, but the first baseman was able to quickly retrieve the errant throw and erase the B/R halfway to second with a great throw before the run scored.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | April 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Great point, but here’s why as umpires we only give the signal with a runner on second. As the plate umpire the real reason for the signal is to let the base umpire know I’m not going to be helping on the bases (covering third or helping in a run down) until the run scores. If we only have a runner on fisrt I’m still going to be helping out with coverage on the bases.

    Comment by Rob | April 30, 2008 | Reply

  4. This exact play happened in a game I coached today. 1 out, runners on 2nd and 3rd, fly to CF is caught, both runners advance, run scores. Runner on second was called out on appeal for leaving too soon. Umpire took the run off the board. I argued to no avail.

    My question is: I’m looking all over the rule book for specific language that governs this and can’t find it. Anybody know what/where it would be?

    Comment by Jody Z | May 3, 2008 | Reply

    • With the situation. The runner at 2nd base that left early was forced back to second before the the throw was made to 2nd base. And the runner’s run from 3rd counts before the out at second occurs?

      Comment by James | August 3, 2013 | Reply

      • Here is a situation that happened to us today to our Midget aged players .
        Two outs. Bases loaded . Grounder hit between first and second. Third base runner scores . Second baseman tags the runner from first after he freezes and runs back towards first . The Umpire recorded the run as he said it was across the plate before the tag was made . Our argument was it was a forced play and no runs count on forced plays third outs . Who is right ?
        Thanks , Roger F Hubbards Nova Scotia Canada .

        Comment by Roger | August 11, 2013

  5. Jody, from what I can tell, you appear to be right. This is a “time play”. At the time of the 3rd out (when the appeal was made and the runner called out), had the run scored? If so, the run counts. Only on a force play (runner must go to the next base because the batter became a runner) does the run NOT count even if it is scored before the out is made. For example, bases loaded, runner from 1st misses second on the way to third on a hit by the batter and runners on second and third score easily, those two runs do NOT count if the runner who missed second is called out. Otherwise, all runs count if they touch the plate before the 3rd out. I hope this helps. I will defer to some others to give you the specific rule numbers. There are some subtle differences between Little League, high school, college and pro baseball. What level of baseball do you coach?

    Comment by Shawn Kimball | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  6. I coach 13-14 yr olds in a municipal rec league in NC. Other than some local exceptions, we use the “Official Baseball Rules” Sporting News edition, which I assume is the same as what’s on the MLB web site.

    I did find the reference, it’s the basic definition of what a run is (which I’m sure would never be altered by local rules variations):

    4.09 HOW A TEAM SCORES.

    (a) One run shall be scored each time a runner legally advances to and touches first, second, third and home base before three men are put out to end the inning. EXCEPTION:
    A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

    and then there are some “approved rulings” given for 4.09, one of which is:

    APPROVED RULING: One out, Jones on third, Smith on first, and Brown flies out to right field. Two outs. Jones tags up and scores after the catch. Smith attempted to return to first but the right fielder’s throw beat him to the base. three outs. But Jones scored before the throw to catch Smith reached first base, hence Jones’ run counts. It was not a force play.

    So even if my kid had been thrown out at second during the actual play rather than on appeal, if the runner crossed the plate before that happened then the run should have counted.

    The term “time play” is nowhere in the actual rules, but 4.09 essentially defines it. If the third out is made in any way other than the three stated in the rule, then the question of whether the run counts is one of timing, i.e. which happened first.

    The problem probably was that ump was under the impression this was a force play, but as the “approved ruling” says, it is not. The definition of a force play is that runners must advance because the batter becomes a runner. Since the fly ball was caught, the batter never became a runner. (And since 1st was vacant to begin with, there obviously could be no force.)

    Comment by Jody Z | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  7. Excellent research Jody! The teacher in me loves it when people find their own answers. Most of the time much more is learned when researhing than getting the answer to the question at hand. Hopefully this play situation and what appears to be an incorrect decision by the umpire gets back to the her/him so she/he can benefit from this experience.
    Jody, did you go onto the field to question the decision? If so, I hope the umpire knew enough to go home and make sure that she/he was right. This is why I have no problem with coaches/managers having permission to question decisions that are based on rule interpretations. However coming out to argue a close play on the bases should not be allowed in high school and youth baseball unless it deals with sharing something that the umpire might not have seen. I don’t write the rules so you have to put up with coaches coming onto the field almost whenever they wish.

    Comment by Shawn Kimball | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  8. I did go onto the field, but I wasn’t 100% sure I was right so I didn’t make much of an issue of it. I emailed our league director all this information and asked him to forward it to the people who book our umpires, in hopes that the guys who made this call will receive it.

    Comment by Jody Z | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  9. While we’re on the topic of timing plays, I’ve come across one that is a bit intriguing to me. My ruling on the play would be that the run scores, but I am having trouble citing the correct information to back this up.

    Scenario: R1 on 3rd base; R2 on 1st base. 1 out. Sharp one hopper to first baseman. 1B tags first base to record the second out, and then throws to second base in an effort to get R2 before he arrives at second. Technically, R2 is no longer being forced to second base as he initially was, because the Batter-Runner has already been put out. If R2 were to get himself in a run down, and R1 crosses the plate prior to R2 being tagged out, does that run count?

    Again, I believe the run does score since the force no longer is in effect, however I am struggling to substantiate this within the book.

    Comment by Jim D | July 11, 2008 | Reply

  10. You are 100% correct. The run scores. Even without a run-down, a fast runner from third may score before the 1st baseman can catch the ball, tag first, and throw to second base for the runner to be tagged. Once the batter-runner is retired, there can be no force play. Therefore, as plate umpire, be ready to decide whether the run counts.

    Other weird time play situations: appeal plays as long as the runner retired was not forced to the base where he was called out on appeal.

    Tip for coaches/managers: If you are going to appeal multiple runners at multiple bases, work backwards starting at home plate, going to 3rd, etc. Otherwise, once the batter-runner is called out on appeal at 1st, all preceding runners’ runs would count.

    Comment by Shawn Kimball | July 13, 2008 | Reply

  11. Here’s a good one, happened to me tonite: T-ball, 2outs, runner on 3rd, opponent hits a squibber toward 1st. Batter stops and runs back toward home. He gets in a rundown between my catcher and 1st baseman.(Of course everyone is yelling to just tag 1st but he doesn’t) We finally tag him out but the runner had scored by then. I can’t recall if bases were loaded or not(does it matter?) Ump called batter out for carrying the bat too far????? but counted the run. I thought he should have been out the instant he ran back to home and the run should not have counted. Kids do the darndest things!

    Comment by doug cody | April 24, 2009 | Reply

    • the batter is always a force out before he gets to first even if hes tagged.

      Comment by matt tuttle | June 5, 2009 | Reply

  12. Girls 8 to 10—Had an instance tonight where opposing team had 2 outs and a runner on third. Grounder was hit toward 1st. Girl got it about half way between !st and home. Tagged runner out. Ump signaled out but DID NOT signal anything about the run to score. (I dont know for sure if the runner made it before the out or not). It wasnt till the opposing coach said anything to the ump that a comment was made. This was in 1st inning. In the 3rd inning we had an argument about the score with the 5 runs per inning deal and was asked what our book showed. Official book was being kept by the other team.Ump sided with opposing side and game was at its end on time. We lost 8 to 7. Is this a joke or what???

    Comment by A Foreman | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  13. With two out, the batter/runner must reach first safely before any discussion can begin about whether or not the run counts, because after the B/R reaches first safely, it becomes a time play. The batter/runner did not make it to first base safely (a force play) and, therefore, no runs can score on a play where the third out is as a result of a force play.

    Comment by Steve Johnson | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  14. Just to clarify an ongoing debate I’ve been having with a few friends: runner on third, two outs and an infield drive to short-stop. The short stop hesitates and plays to first with the runner on third advancing home. He is not a forced runner but crosses the plate just before the batter/runner to first goes out. Does the run count or is it cancelled? This is MLB rules if it makes any difference.

    Comment by Mike | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  15. Mike, any batter going to first base is a force out, so anytime an out is made at 1st base before the batter gets there, NO runs can score.

    Even if the shortstop throws it wild, and the first baseman has to get it, and the runner from 3rd has scored and is already flirting with his girlfriend in the stands, but the batter tripped, and then the first baseman gets the ball, and tags 1st base, the run does NOT count.

    Comment by alex | July 18, 2009 | Reply

    • I think you meant to say, anytime the THIRD out is made [before batter reaches 1st], no runs can score, not anytime AN out is made. Runners can of course score on outs at first with fewer than two outs.

      Comment by Everett | June 23, 2010 | Reply

  16. All the cases I see above are dealing with live ball situations.

    How about dead ball situations? Bases loaded, 2 out, Home Run and Batter/Runner misses 2nd base. Appeal cannot be made until after the Batter/Runner crosses home plate.

    What is the call?

    Comment by J. Jesse | October 29, 2009 | Reply

  17. bases loaded, ball hit to center field, center field bobbles ball, run from third scored, but they can force out at second base from CF, does th run from third count. Umpire ruled, yes, because cf did field ball cleanly and ruled as timing play.

    Comment by Joe Bon | May 22, 2010 | Reply

    • Umpire was wrong. A force out is a force out is a force out. A “timing play” (and only really bush-league umps use terms that don’t appear in the rule book, which this one doesn’t) only applies to non-force plays. So, if R1 rounds second and then gets picked off returning to second, the run would score.

      Comment by Everett | June 23, 2010 | Reply

      • You are right about the call, but very good umpires use terms all the time that are not in the rule book. A “timing play” or “time play” are accepted terms and are used regularly by umpire instructors.

        Comment by Chris Bennington | June 24, 2010

  18. bases loaded, 2 outs, top of 7th, down by 2. Batter hits a drive to left center. All runners come in. Batter slides in safely at third. An appeal is made that batter missed 2nd base. Batter is called out. How many, if any, runs score???

    Comment by Kelly | April 14, 2011 | Reply

  19. Runner on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Fly ball to right field caught (2 outs), runner on 3rd tags and crosses plate but runner on 2nd fails to tag and is doubled off 2nd before getting back to base. Does the runner going home from 3rd run count?

    Comment by mariochalmer | April 18, 2011 | Reply

    • 2 runs score. R-3 and R-2 RB out at 2nd 3rd. out

      19-Runner from 3rd.scores prior to R2 being called out for failre to retouch 2nd, for 3rd.out.No force play

      Comment by Dave ADAMO | May 14, 2011 | Reply

  20. Runner on third base and second base with two out. Batter hits ball to SS who fumbles and instead going to first for the force out, sees the runner from second running by him. SS throws to third base for the tagged out. Does the run score or does it become one of those “time plays’?
    What if the third basemen missed the initial tag but tagged the runner after he over slid third base?

    Comment by James | July 19, 2011 | Reply

  21. There is a runner on third with two outs. The batter hits a ball to shortstop. The shortstop overthrows first, but the backup for first getsIt and throws the runner out before he reaches first. Does the run count? This happened in the college world series a fews years back and the run counted because it was considered a timing play. So once the initial play was a throwing error then it was no longer a force. And by the way… a batter is not a force out since it defines a force out as a eunner behind you that makes you advance… I heard it many ways

    Comment by stanley | October 27, 2012 | Reply

  22. runners on first and second, batter hits ball to fence, runner on second scores, runner on first goes home but does not touch plate, batter rounds third and touches home plate, runner from first never touches plate and is tagged out. What is the ruling?

    Comment by Steve | March 19, 2013 | Reply

  23. If a runner on first base misses second base but him and the batter score what happen to the second runner

    Comment by Ivan | May 3, 2014 | Reply


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