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I can foresee a situation when a team is tied or up by one run, late in the game, where an outfielder may intentionally drop a catchable ball in foul territory to prevent an opposing runner from tagging up and scoring from third base with less than two outs.

Has this tactic ever been used in a Major League game?

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I'm looking around for a specific instance, will add and answer if I find one. –  wax eagle Feb 13 '12 at 13:36
    
I don't believe runners can advance from a ball hit into foul territory, whether it's caught or not. –  Robert C. Barth Feb 13 '12 at 20:19
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@RobertC.Barth if the ball is caught it is treated as any other pop fly, runners may advance if they tag-up. –  wax eagle Feb 14 '12 at 3:25
    
While counter-intuitive, I guess that's the case after all. I couldn't find anything in the rulebook against it, and I assume the ball is live and the game is still in play after the fielder catches it, which is what makes it possible, is that the case? –  Robert C. Barth Feb 14 '12 at 22:16
    
@RobertC.Barth yes, exactly this. –  wax eagle Mar 15 '12 at 13:07

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Absolutely. I can remember at least a couple of games I've watched where the game was tied and a deep fly ball was hit into foul territory with a runner on 3rd - the outfielder just let it drop so that they didn't have to try and make the throw to home plate to try and get the runner out that would have been tagging up.

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Anyone have a box score/youtube video play index to support this? I've made concerted effort to try to find a news article or other. It seems like a viable strategy, but a clip/story/play index would be awesome (though incredibly hard to find) –  wax eagle Feb 14 '12 at 3:26
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probably would only make the news if the batter got a walk-off hit on the next pitch or something. –  weiy Feb 14 '12 at 21:14
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I remember someone allowing a pop foul to fall so that Ricky Henderson would not advance to third with one out. I laughed because Ricky just stole third on the next pitch and the throw wasn't even close despite a pitch out. –  Chad Feb 23 '12 at 14:16

It happens all the time. As a matter of fact, if a player DID catch a deep fly ball with a runner on third late in the game, it would be a gaffe and he'd be the talk of Sports Center (at least until some analyst tweeted something inflammatory...)

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According to MLB Rule 7.08d,

Any runner in out when he fails to retouch his base after a fair or foul ball is legally caught before he, or his base, is tagged by a fielder. He shall not be called out for failure to retouch his base after the first following pitch, or any play or attempted play. This is an appeal play.

As far as an example goes, you'll have a hard time finding an one if going by box scores. I'm sure there are examples. Most of the time what will happen is if there are less than 2 outs, the outfielder simply will not run as hard to catch the ball -- or if he is able to arrive to the location of the foul ball with enough time, chances are he will be able to set himself up for a strong throw to the plate. I have to imagine though some outfielders in their earnestness to make an out have forgotten the situation. I've seen situations where outfielders, forgetting the number of outs, have tossed caught fly balls into the stands (a common practice at the end of an inning for a lucky fan) with only 2 outs, allowing base runners to advance -- sometimes scoring a run.

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