1

Visitors are down by one run in the top of the ninth with one out and runners on second and third bases. The batter hits a scorching line-drive down the right-field line. The runner on third comes home to score, and the runner on second is rounding 3rd when the right-fielder makes a spectacular diving catch, and then throws it to the shortstop covering second for a game-ending double-play.

The crowd goes wild, and the shortstop throws the ball into the stands in celebration.

The visitors' coach says

Wait a minute... our runner scored way before you got the third out at second. It doesn't even matter that he didn't tag up on third because once you've gotten the third out, the inning is over, and it's too late to appeal. Had you wanted that run not to score, you should've thrown it to third instead.

Besides that, you've thrown the ball out of play, so even if you were allowed a fourth out, you couldn't retrieve it and appeal because the play is officially over once the ball leaves the playing field.

He looks around to find the scoring-runner to have him go back to third and score correctly just to be sure, but that player has already hidden somewhere private to cope with the emotions.

The home team's coach replies

You can't score an illegal run like that. It doesn't matter which bag we throw it to, he still has to tag up. And even if you ever do get them to tag up and score, that run still wouldn't count because he left the baseline a long time ago.

He yells at his players to stop celebrating and tells them to go get the ball out of the stands so that they can appeal to third.

What is the right call? Does the run count and the game moves on to the bottom of the ninth? Or does the home team win? Or do you wait to see if the runner tags up and scores before the ball is found and appealed at third? Is a fourth out allowed in situations like this? And if so, how can you be sure that they found the right ball?

2 Answers 2

2

The crowd goes wild, and the shortstop throws the ball a mile into the stands.

What had the umpires signaled at that time? Out and inning over? Did the home-plate umpire signal a run? Why is the defense celebrating if the run apparently scored?

once you've gotten the 3rd out, the inning is over, and it's too late to appeal.

It's not too late to appeal. As long as the defense has not yet left the field of play, they may appeal and potentially be awarded a "fourth out".

Text under MLB Rule 5.09(c)

Appeal plays may require an umpire to recognize an apparent “fourth out.” If the third out is made during a play in which an appeal play is sustained on another runner, the appeal play decision takes precedence in determining the out. If there is more than one appeal during a play that ends a half-inning, the defense may elect to take the out that gives it the advantage. For the purpose of this rule, the defensive team has “left the field” when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory on their way to the bench or Clubhouse.

He looks around to find the scoring-runner to have him go back to 3rd and score correctly

That wouldn't be possible anyway per the approved ruling 5.09(c)(2)(B)

When the ball is dead, no runner may return to touch a missed base or one he has left after he has advanced to and touched a base beyond the missed base.

(And even the ability to return to tag home base is forfeit by entering the dugout or other dead ball area)

even if you were allowed a 4th out, you couldn't retrieve it and appeal because the play is officially over once the ball leaves the playing field.

I see nothing in the rules that require an appeal be made with the ball that was previously used. The fact the previous play ended does not matter.

Text under 5.09(c)(4)

Any appeal under this rule must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play. If the violation occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field.

If the play was deemed over (by umpire calling a third out) when the shortstop threw the ball, then I don't see it being a big deal. One of the players asks the umpire for another ball, tells the umpire they're making an appeal, then throws the ball to third base. Now during the appeal, it's important that ball doesn't go into the stands. If it did, the appeal fails and they can't try again.

The language used mentioning the "throw made for the appeal", suggests to me that the previous ball being unavailable is not pertinent.

The defense loses the ability to appeal if:

  • The throw made for the appeal goes out of the field of play.
  • A balk occurs before or during the appeal.
  • A pitch is made to the batter.
  • A play is made after the action has stopped. So for example if the pitcher tries to pick off a runner rather than throw to a base for an appeal.

Would like to know if the umpire rulebook has any entries on this, but if I'm there and if the runner on third was scored as a run, I allow the appeal even though the original ball is gone. If the appeal is executed properly and the runner left early, then out at third, no run scores.

It is a bit weird because if this were a mid-inning appeal, a new ball and umpire signaling "play ball" would be expected (and the appeal could then be made). But because the inning is over, that mechanic isn't available.

1
  • I largely agree with your answer (+1), but I answered separately largely because I thought this wasn't sufficiently focused on actually answering the question - does the run score or not - and finding what's needed for that.
    – Joe
    Oct 12, 2022 at 15:22
2

The only question here is whether the defense can appeal the play or not; nothing else here matters. If the defense has not left the field, they can appeal; if they left the field, they cannot appeal, and the run scores.

The run scoring is not affected by the play at second - at all. It's allowed to score, unless they appeal, because the out at second is not a force play1:

5.08 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.

None of these apply (the batter-runner was caught out and not the third out, there is no force out as this was a fly ball out, and no runner is accused of failing to touch a base, nor can there be a preceding runner in the case of a runner on third anyway). As such, the only thing that matters is whether the player at third is appealed or not.

The appeal play is covered in 5.09(c)1:

(c) Appeal Plays Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when:

(1) After a fly ball is caught, he fails to retouch his original base before he or his original base is tagged;

Importantly, the "go back and touch third" part is irrelevant here - it's extra irrelevant since the third out was made at second anyway, and even if he did retouch and then try to score, the third out was made, so it wouldn't count as it's after the third out. But, of course, he's not allowed to anyway.

When the ball is dead, no runner may return to touch a missed base or one he has left after he has advanced to and touched a base beyond the missed base.

The appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field:

If the violation occurs during a play which ends a half-inning, the appeal must be made before the defensive team leaves the field.

Umpires generally give some leeway for celebrations (for example, it's not really permissible for the whole dugout to empty and surround a player trying to score the winning run, but it's permitted nonetheless). Whether they would count the defensive team having left the field during a celebration or not is largely up to their discretion - it's unclear from your description if they did that. We're specifically looking for one thing here: where are the Pitcher and Catcher?

For the purpose of this rule, the defensive team has “left the field” when the pitcher and all infielders have left fair territory on their way to the bench or Clubhouse.

If they did rule the appeal was in order, the runner would not score; if they did not, then the run would count, and we'd go on to the next half inning in a tie game.

And yes, this is the rarely-seen "fourth out" scenario, since the runner on third needs to be called out or else he would score.

10
  • Is an appeal even needed? The runner has not legally advanced to home before the third out is made, because they weren't entitled to advance to home without tagging up at third base. The fact that they touched home plate before the catch was made seems irrelevant. Sure, the runner at 3rd isn't out until an appeal is made, but the out at 3rd isn't needed after the runner at second is declare out for the third out.
    – chepner
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:58
  • Yes, the appeal is needed. He does need to tag up, but if you don't appeal, he's not out - that's the only way to get him out. The usual "double him off" throw to the bag he was supposed to tag up on is, in fact, an appeal play - just a more automatic one. If you don't appeal, the run scores.
    – Joe
    Jan 12, 2023 at 3:31
  • Yes, but you don't need to get him out: the runner at second is the third out. My understanding is that "runner is out" and "runner has scored" are not the only two options for the status of the runner at 3rd.
    – chepner
    Jan 12, 2023 at 13:36
  • The runner from 3rd scored before the runner from second was put out on appeal. That's why you need to appeal the third as well. The runner from second was not put out on a force out, so the fact that they're out does not preclude the runner from third from scoring.
    – Joe
    Jan 12, 2023 at 16:38
  • 1
    "Unintended side effect of rule as written" :)
    – chepner
    Jan 12, 2023 at 17:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.