May 28, 2021

Javier Baez Confuses Pirates When He Runs From 1B to Home

If the Pirates Only Knew the Rules...

Javier Baez Confuses Pirates When He Runs From 1B to Home

Rule 5.08 (a) says that no run can score when the batter-runner makes the third out before he touches first base, or if the inning ends in a force.

The Pirates hosted the Cubs on Thursday afternoon. In the top of the third, Javier Baez was batting with Willson Contreras on second base and two outs. Baez hit a ground ball to Bucs’ third baseman Erik Gonzalez who fielded it and threw to first baseman Will Craig. The throw pulled Craig off the base.

Baez retreated back toward home plate and Craig inexplicably chased him rather than just step on the base. Meanwhile Contreras raced around third and slid under the tag of catcher Michael Perez who received a toss form Craig.

Baez then took off for first and advanced to second when Perez’s throw got by Adam Frazier covering first base.

Ian Happ followed with an RBI single.


Expert Interpretation

  1. Because there were two outs, Craig simply could have touched first base and no run can score when an inning ends when the batter-runner is put out before reaching first base.
  2. If Craig tagged Baez, even after Contreras slid home safely the run would not count because Baez was retired for the third out before reaching first base. This would not be a “Time Play.”
  3. If Frazier was able to catch Perez’s throw and step on the base, the run would not score for reasons given in number 2.
  4. Baez had the right to retreat toward home plate. If he touched the plate, he would be out. But he never touched the plate.
  1. Perez, the catcher, could not be called for obstruction even if Baez collided with him unless the obstruction was intentional. The reason is the catcher is protected when the batter-runner retreats back to the plate.
  2. But in my opinion, Craig could have been called for Type 1 obstruction. After he tossed the ball to Perez, he hindered Baez’s advance to first base and plate umpire Ryan Additon could have ruled obstruction on Craig who was not protected.
  3. So, after the smoke cleared, the Cubs had scored two runs as a result of Craig not taking the easy inning-ending putout at first base when he received the throw from Gonzalez.
  4. The two runs were pivotal in the Cubs, 5-3 win.
  5. Credit Baez for doing something unorthodox that put pressure on the defense.
  6. “They say if you stay in the game long enough, you’ll see everything,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “I’ve never seen that before. That’s on me. We got to know that. I guarantee you’ll never see it again while I’m here.”
  7. The official scorer originally ruled the play a fielder’s choice and an RBI but changed his decision to an E 3 because the first baseman could have touched first base but did not.

Batter’s Third Out at First Base Nullifies Run

As stated above when the batter makes the third out before reaching first base, no runs can score. In the May 4, 2004, game between the Cardinals and Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Cards’ catcher Mike Matheny wisely executed this rule. The Phils trailed 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases loaded with two outs and a 3-2 count on Pat Burrell who swung and missed for strike three. The ball went off Matheny’s glove and bounced off the wall back to Matheny. As Marlon Byrd dashed home from third and crossed the plate with the apparent tying run, Matheny’s only play was to get the ball to first base before Burrell got there. Mission accomplished. Burrell was called out nullifying Byrd’s run.

Runner Baits Fielder into a Time Play

Let’s say there are runners on second and third and two outs. The batter hits a ground ball to the third baseman who is moving to his left. The runner advancing from second to third baits the third baseman into making a play on him. The third baseman bites and the runner retreats back to second base and gets into a rundown. By the time he is tagged the runner on third has crossed the plate. The run scores because the inning did not end in a force out, nor did the batter-runner make the third out before reaching first base. The third baseman should have thrown to first base to retire the batter-runner which would have negated the run.

Batter-Runner Misses Touching First Base after Hitting a Home Run

The batter hits a bases loaded home run with two outs. While circling the bases he fails to touch first base and is called out when appealed. No runs score because the batter-runner made the third out before touching first base.                              

Bases Loaded Two Outs Inning-Ending Play

The bases are loaded and there are two outs, the batter hits a ground ball to the second baseman. The runner going from first to second challenges the second baseman to make a play on him. The second baseman bites and a rundown ensues. The runner from third scores before the runner in the rundown is tagged. Does the run score?


Even though the inning ended in a tag play after the runner on third crossed the plate, the run does not score because the inning ended in a force out despite the tag.

Rich Marazzi

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


Terry Torline

Would the throw to the catcher to tag out Baez constitute a 2nd play by an infielder?


If Baez had crossed the third base line while retreating without touching home, would he have been considered out of the baseline to first?

Tony Daniel

Had it happen to me in a High School game as Plate Umpire a few years ago. Was running through my head what the rule would be. But
did not call him out for running home. Waited and was going to call him out if he touched home . Needless to say they threw to first after a couple of relays around the plate and got the out at first .
They never let the runner from third score during this play , but he was coming home on the run down.

Stan Dyer

This is why it is important to know all the rules no matter which level you play at. Just because a player has the talent to play in the majors, it doesn’t automatically mean he has mastered the rules. It’s kind of a Little League play, but the first baseman should almost always go for the bag on such a play. If he tries to tag the runner, he risks the ball falling out of his mitt.


Maybe the wildest most unusual play I’ve ever seen in my 50+ years watching the game. Being a lifelong Cubs fan, Baez is one of the most fun and exciting players I’ve seen. He never fails to entertain. You could say he literally stole first base!

I watched that play during the game and then over and over again and again with each replay bringing a shake of my head, a smile and a chuckle. Javy Baez is truly El Mago!

Thanks for a great rules explanation once again!

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