July 14, 2023

2023 Batter Awarded Third Base on Infield Overthrow

When an infielder fires a ball into dead ball territory, things can get tricky

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2023 Batter Awarded Third Base on Infield Overthrow

Do you know there are situations when a batter-runner can be awarded third base on an overthrow by an infielder into dead ball territory?

Can you define the terms “FIRST PLAY” and “SECOND PLAY” in the infield?

Award of Bases on Infield Throws into Dead Ball Territory

Normally when an infielder throws a ball into DBT, the base award is two bases from the last base touched where the runners where at the time the pitch was delivered which is also considered the “start of play.” EX: There’s a runner on second when the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop. The shortstop checks the runner and air mails the ball into DBT. Both runners are awarded two bases. The runner on second scores and the batter-runner is awarded second base because the throw, not the fielding of the ball is considered by rule the FIRST PLAY in the infield. FIRST PLAY throws result in a two- base award from the last base touched at the time the pitch was delivered. The fielding of the ball, by rule, is not the FIRST PLAY in the infield. It’s what the fielder does after the FIRST PLAY.

There is a very rare situation when the batter-runner is awarded third base on an overthrow in the infield. Of course, that would allow any runners on base to score.

Batter-Runner Awarded Third Base on Infield Throw into DBT

If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced one base at the time of a FIRST PLAY overthrow into DBT, they are awarded two bases from the last base touched at the time the fielder releases his throw. Chances of that happening are extremely remote. It even caught the umpires by surprise in the Mariners-Yankees game played in New York on June 22, 2023. Here is what happened.

In the top of the third inning, the M’s had Eugenio Suárez on first base and one out when Mike Ford hit a soft ground ball to Josh Donaldson who was shaded toward shortstop. The Yankees’ third baseman bobbled the ball and Suárez saw no one covering third base, so he never stopped running once he hit second. Yankees’ pitcher Domingo Germán  tried to retreat to third and would’ve had Suárez out, but he missed the easy throw and the ball rolled into the Mariners’ dugout.

Umpire Confusion

The umpires seemed confused as to where to place the runners. The broadcasters and fans were bewildered as well.  But not M’s manager Scott Servais who questioned the umpires about the placement of runners. The umps huddled and decided to make a RULES CHECK with the Command Center.  Following contact with the Replay Official, crew chief Dan Bellino announced that Suárez would score, and Ford would be sent to third base. The delay took over eight minutes.

Below is the play. The end of the video has an overhead view and shows the position of the runners at the moment the ball was released by Donaldson.

Ruleball Comments

  1. The rule that is cited here is 5.06 (b) (4) (G) APPROVED RULING. It reads, “If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the FIRST PLAY after the pitch, the (two-base) award should be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.”
  2. Because Suárez was between second and third when Donaldson released the ball, and Ford was on first base, they were awarded two bases from the last base touched at the time of the throw. Suárez scored and Ford was awarded third base.
  3. If Ford had not reached first base at the time of the throw, Suárez would not be allowed to score and would be given third base because the criteria was not met to invoke the above rule because all runners did not advance the one base necessary before the throw.
  4. Credit Servais for questioning the placement of the runners with the umpires.
  5. Also, kudos to Ford for hustling to first base.
  6. The lesson here is to pay attention to the position of the runner/s when the throw is released.

First and Second Plays in the Infield    

Notice the rule reads, “when an infielder makes a wild throw on the FIRST PLAY after the pitch…” As stated above, the FIRST PLAY is not the fielding of the ball.  A PLAY is defined as follows: (1) an actual attempt to tag a runner, (2) a fielder running toward a base with the ball in an attempt to force or tag a runner or (3) throwing to another defensive

player in an attempt to retire a runner. A fake or a feint to throw is not interpreted as a play or attempted play, nor is a muff or mishandling of a batted ball. In the above play, Donaldson’s throw to Germán was the FIRST PLAY in the infield.

So, what is the SECOND PLAY in the infield?

Example of a Second Play in the Infield

Let’s say in the above play, Donaldson ran at  Suárez when he was between second and third and before he threw to  Germán.   In that case, Donaldson’s FIRST PLAY was when he ran toward Suárez. If Donaldson then throws to Germán and the ball goes into DBT, the throw would be Donaldson’s SECOND PLAY in the infield and all runners would be awarded two bases from the last base touched at the time the ball was released by the fielder.

 The SECOND PLAY in the Infield

That’s what happened in the Indians-Rangers game played on April 5, 2017, when the umpires had to exercise the rare SECOND PLAY in the infield rule.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Rangers had Jonathan Lucroy on second base and Joey Gallo on first with two outs when Shin-Soo Choo hit a ground ball over second base that was fielded by Francisco Lindor. The Indians’ shortstop ran to second base in an attempt to force out Gallo. But Gallo, running with the pitch, beat him to the base. This was Lindor’s FIRST PLAY in the infield, not the fielding of the ball.  Lindor then threw the ball into dead ball territory. That was the SECOND PLAY in the infield. Lucroy scored on the play and Gallo was awarded home because he had second base made when Lindor released his throw to first base which was the SECOND PLAY in the infield. Choo was awarded second base because he did not reach first base before the throw was released by Lindor. Although unlikely, If Choo had first base made, he would have been awarded third base.

If Lindor never attempted to retire Gallo after he fielded the ball and threw the ball out of play, then Gallo would be sent to third because Lindor’s errant throw would have been the FIRST PLAY in the infield.

Confused? Sounds like an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?  skit.

Read the report two or three times and all this should sink in.


Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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