June 5, 2024

Did Runner Intentionally Interfere to Avert a Double Play?

Runner interference and the double play

Did Runner Intentionally Interfere to Avert a Double Play?

In the top of the second inning in the Yankees-Angels game played on May 29, 2024 the Yankees had Anthony Rizzo on second and Jose Trevino on first and one out when DJ LeMahieu hit a ground ball to the left side of the infield that struck Rizzo. He was called out for runner interference and LeMahieu was credited with a base hit. Ironically, most likely the interference protected the Yankees from a potential 6-4-3 double play.

“It was a judgment call, and they didn’t think it was on purpose,” said Angels manager Ron Washington. “But he was cool with the way he did it. That was a very smart play.”

Do you think Rizzo intentionally got hit by the batted ball to avert the double play?

Ruleball Comments

Rule 6.01 (a) (6) reads, “If in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.”

The derivation of the rule comes from a play that occurred on April 21, 1957, when the Reds played the Braves in Milwaukee.

The Reds’ Don Hoak played smart Ruleball by taking advantage of the rules at the time. Hoak was on second base with Gus Bell on first and one out in the top of the first inning. Wally Post, facing Warren Spahn, hit a chopper toward Braves shortstop Johnny Logan. Hoak, running toward third, fielded the ball like an infielder and then flipped it to Logan, effectively preventing a sure double play. Only one out was called.

Did the punishment fit the crime?

Five days later, a new rule was enacted which is now 6.01(a) (6)  making both the player hit by the batted ball and the batter out if the runner purposely let himself get hit by the ball.

Intent to interfere to break-up a double play is umpire judgment. And it can be a tough call. Over the years runners have timed their run to induce contact with the ground ball to stay away from the double play.

Did Rizzo intentionally get hit to avoid the DP? Only Rizzo knows that.  In the postgame press conference Yankees manager Aaron Boone said with a smie, “I think ‘Rizz’ took the edge off a little bit.” He added, “It’s just one of those games within a game that ‘Rizz’ is really good at. It’s probably going to be a double play ball.”

Rich Marazzi

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

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