Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Not So Fast - Unique Time Play Plates Indians a Run

Cleveland scored a tying run against Texas on a unique sacrifice fly time play—a double play—in a key Opening Day situation that drew several questions from the Rangers as to its legality.

Short Version: With one out and two on, batter flies out to left field, runner on third legally tags up and scores, after which the runner on second, running on contact, is left in no-man's land and is easily retired at second base for failing to retouch/tag up after the caught fly. Plate umpire scores the run.

This is the correct call because the runner from third base touched home plate before the third out was recorded at second base. Somewhere along the way, folks began perpetuating the myth that tag-up (base retouch) outs were force outs. It is true that no run may be scored on a play during which the third out is a force out, but it is a baseball fallacy to associate tagging up with "force out."

Long Version: To begin, refer to OBR 5.08(a) EXCEPTION, which states, "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."

Diagram of the Time Play. Run has scored.
Easy enough, right? Well, not so fast. With one out and runners at second and third base in the top of the 3rd inning of Monday's Indians-Rangers game, Indians batter Francisco Lindor hit a 0-1 cutter from Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish on a fly ball to left fielder Jurickson Profar, who caught the airborne ball for the inning's second out. While Indians baserunner R3 Abraham Almonte properly tagged up to try and score on the sacrifice fly, baserunner R2 Carlos Santana ran on contact, and was nearly at third base by the time Profar caught the ball. Profar's throw to the infield was cut off by third baseman Joey Gallo, who threw to second baseman Rougned Odor to easily double off Santana as Almonte crossed home plate. As HP Umpire Mike Winters emphatically signaled to the press box to "score the run," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy turned to argue.

It's a time play! In other words, refer to Rule 5.08(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." The question is whether R3 Almonte touched home plate before the third out was recorded, did he beat the out? Replays conclusively indicate he did; the timing was right.

HP Umpire Winters: Score The Run!
That's where the exception to the rule, referenced above, comes into play. Was Santana's out a "runner being forced out" or not? The answer to this question—and the language that proves the myth false—lies in the Definition of Terms: "A FORCE PLAY is a play in which a runner legally loses his right to occupy a base by reason of the batter becoming a runner."

Well, with first base unoccupied, the batter becoming a runner would not legally force either Santana nor Almonte to lose their right to occupy their respective bases.

Had first base been occupied, however, refer to (Force Play) Comment: "Confusion regarding this play is removed by remembering that frequently the 'force' situation is removed during the play." Profar's catch of the fly ball—which retired batter Lindor—would mean the definition's "batter becoming a runner" criterion would not apply, and, thus, no runner would be "forced" to run (the force would be removed and no runner would lose the right to occupy a base).

Therefore, with no force play involving Santana, Rule 5.08(a) EXCEPTION did not apply and Almonte, by virtue of touching home plate before the third out was recorded, legally scored Cleveland's first run of the game. Video via "Read More"


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