There are runners on 2nd and 1st base, and they're both leading off. The pitcher throws to 1st to try to get him out - is the runner on 2nd base allowed to run to 3rd?

  • It's helpful to mention if you're asking about Major League baseball (MLB) and/or one of the minor leagues which operate under the identical rules, or if you're asking about another level (such as high school, college, little league, etc.) which may have its own ruleset.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:21
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    I am voting to close. This is just too basic of a question. Read the rulebook for 3 seconds. Runners can do whatever they want when ball is in play. Whether they get thrown out is their deal. In kids baseball a pitcher would never throw to first in this situation because the guy at 2nd would probably take off to 3rd (because their arm strength is poor).
    – Coach-D
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 18:56
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the question shows no effort by author and is too basic.
    – Coach-D
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 18:57
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    "Too basic" is not a reason to close. Don't assume that everyone grew up playing baseball.
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 22:05
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    If at least one person comes here (eg. via a search engine) and sees the correct answer, the question is worthwhile. It saves them searching through a rulebook. I have absolutely no idea what the answer to this question is, so it's probably not all that basic. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 10:49

3 Answers 3


In baseball (at least as far as the MLB rules go; other levels can have different rulesets, though they tend to be similar), the ball is alive except when it is specifically defined as "dead". That definition is in Rule 5.09 in the current rulebook; while that's a longer rule than I want to quote here, what you'll find is that there is no reference to a pickoff causing a dead ball situation.

The ball can become dead when a runner calls for time, and the umpire grants it:

5.01 (b) (5.02) After the umpire calls “Play” the ball is alive and in play and remains alive and in play until for legal cause, or at the umpire’s call of “Time” suspending play, the ball becomes dead.

After a pickoff it is certainly possible that the runner might ask for time and the umpire might grant it, but if the runner on second or third was in the process of attempting to advance, the umpire should not grant it.

5.12 (8) Except in the cases stated in paragraphs (2) and (3)(A) of this rule, no umpire shall call “Time” while a play is in progress.

(2/3A are referring to specific problems with lighting or injuries, and not relevant here.)

As such, it's permissible for a runner on second or third to attempt to advance during a pickoff play, assuming the pickoff play itself was during a live ball situation (otherwise it's pointless, as runners are not liable to be put out during dead ball situations). It isn't a common occurrence at the major league level, but it is certainly possible in the case of a double steal (where both runners are attempting to advance, and the pitcher guesses correctly and tries to pick one off). At lower levels, it may be more common as pickoff plays and subsequent throws carry more risk of overthrows or players not paying sufficient attention.

  • Or, at the Major League level if Chuck Knoblauch is involved in the play.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:20

The short answer is yes. But, in practice, it typically doesn’t happen because of the risk of being thrown out. Assuming the ball is currently in play, there’s nothing stopping a runner from trying to advance to the next base. In the situation you’ve described, the usual course of action for the runner on second is to retreat part way to second base on the off chance that the throw to first is mishandled in some way. Returning part way would allow the runner to advance much easier if the throw to first was errant.


Basically, as long as the ball is "in play," a runner is allowed to run to any open base. The runner from first is allowed to run to second, or back to first. The runner from second is allowed to run to third, or back to second (in the last case, he prevents the runner from first from using second base).

Most runners that are "caught" in this way prefer to run to the nearest base. If the runner from second is actually closer to third base, he's past the "point of no return" and should run to third base, and leave second base open to the other runner.

What usually happens is that the defense concentrates on one runner, leaving the other runner free. The most likely scenario is that they concentrate on getting out the first base runner, which means that the second base runner gets a "free pass" to third. If the defense then throws to third, maybe they overthrow and both runners advance. A good throw to third might nail the lead runner, but the first base runner advances to second in compensation.

The most likely result in these situations is that one runner is sacrificed to allow the other runner to advance. If both runners manage to advance, that's a good result for the batting team; getting both runners out is a good result for the defense.

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