July 9, 2022

Fourth Out Appeal

Nationals miss opportunity for rare fourth out appeal

Fourth Out Appeal

The Nats hosted the Pirates on June 29th when the Nationals had the opportunity to nullify a Pirates’ run by taking advantage of the “fourth out” appeal rule but failed to do so.

With one out in the top of the fifth, the Bucs had Hoy Park on second and Jack Suwinski on third when Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a line drive toward first base. Park and Suwinski both ran on contact and never tagged-up.  Nationals’ first baseman Josh Bell made the catch near the ground and first base umpire Mark Wegner made the out call. Hayes then threw to third baseman Ehire Adrianza, who tagged Park, the runner on second, at the start of play for the double play. Third base ump Jeremie Rehak made the call.

Suwinski crossed the plate before Park was tagged, and because the Nationals never appealed Suwinski’s no-tag-up infraction, and the inning did not end in a force out, his run counted. If the fourth out appeal was made following Adrianza’s tag of Park, it would have nullified Suwinski’s run.

After tagging Park, Adrianza stepped on third base but did not communicate any reason why he did so. Once continuous action concluded, Pirates’ manager Derek Shelton came out questioning if Bell trapped the ball? Because catch/no-catch calls in the infield are not reviewable, the umps huddled, and supported Wegner’s out call. Meanwhile all of the Nationals infielders had crossed the foul line enroute to the dugout at which time it became official that Suwinski’s run counted because he was never appealed before the pitcher and all the infielders had crossed the foul line.

Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez met with the umpiring crew to argue the situation.  The Nats attempted to return to the field to make the appeal, only to be denied by rule.

The umpires on the field made a Crew Chief Review in reference to a section of the “fourth out” appeal rule that states in inning-ending plays, “the appeal must be made before the infielders and the pitcher cross the foul line.”  The Replay Official agreed that the Nationals had lost their right to make the “fourth out” appeal because the pitcher and the infielders had left the infield by crossing the foul line after the third out was recorded.

Ruleball Comment

       The play was properly ruled by the umpires.

  1. According to rule 5.09 (c) (4), “Appeal plays may require the umpire to recognize and apparent “fourth out.” If the third out (Park) is made during a play in which an appeal play is sustained on another runner (Suwinski), the appeal play decision takes precedence in determining the out. If there is more than one appeal that ends a half-inning, the defense may elect to take the out (Suwinski) that gives it the advantage…”
  2. Suwinski’s run was allowed to score because he crossed the plate before Park was tagged. This was an inning-ending “Time Play” because the inning did not end in a force.
  3. When a batter lines out or flies out and there is continuing action, this is a red flag for a run scoring “Time Play” because no runner is “forced” to advance since the batter-runner never becomes a runner which sets-up the force.
  4. An appeal must be clearly indicated-it cannot be done inadvertently. When Adrianza stepped on third after he tagged Park, he was not clearly indicating that he was appealing that Suwinski failed to tag-up. The fielder must make an obvious intent to appeal. It’s highly doubtful that Adrianza was appealing Suwinski’s failure to tag up when he stepped on the base.
  5. After the pitcher and all the infielders left fair territory, the Nats could not make the “fourth out” appeal. This was confirmed with the crew chief RULES CHECK.
  6. In the above play, if Adrianza, the Nats’ third baseman, had tagged the base before he tagged Park, the inning would have ended without a run scoring because that would have erased Suwinski. But because Park was tagged for the third out, Suwinski’s run scored because the Nationals did not appeal the “fourth out.”
  7. Suwinski’s run proved to be pivotal in a game the Pirates won, 9-8.
  8. The broadcasters were understandably confused about a rule that few understand. But instead of guessing, in my opinion, every network should have a rules expert that can help when various rule situations occur. The worst thing a broadcaster can do is guess and provide misinformation.  
  9. Based on my research, there has never been a successful “fourth out” appeal in a major league game, most likely because it is a confusing rule. But I have seen it executed in a college game.

Troy University from Alabama wearing white jerseys is playing the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, dressed in red jerseys.  Louisiana-Lafayette had runners on first and third and one out when the batter flied to the outfield for the second out. Like the above play, both runners never tagged-up and were in peril of being appealed.

The throw came into the infield, and the runner who was originally on first is tagged out in a rundown for the third out. But before the Troy infielders all crossed the foul line on the way to their dugout, they made the “fourth out” appeal at third base which nullified the run.


Rich Marazzi

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

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