Multiple Ways a Time Play Can Score a Run
The Phillies hosted the Giants on August 23, 2023. In the top of the tenth inning the Giants had Wade Meckler on third and Paul DeJong on first and one out when Thairo Estrada lined to center field for the second out. The ball went from center field to first base where DeJong was doubled-up for the third out, but not before Meckler had crossed the plate.
Plate umpire Jacob Metz ruled that Meckler crossed the plate before the out was recorded at first base. The Phils challenged the call, but the Replay Official upheld the call on the field.
The Giants won the game, 8-6.
- Under rule 5.08 (a), no run can score when an inning ends in a force out, or when the batter-runner makes the third out before reaching first base, or a preceding runner is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases. However, when those conditions are not met, if the third out of the inning results in a non-force tag-out of a trail runner, or the tag of a base such as doubling-up a runner, while the lead runner is heading to the plate, it becomes a race against time when judging whether or not a run should score-thus the term “Time Play.” The term is umpire’s jargon and not found in the Official Baseball Rules.
- If the tag of the trail runner or the base occurs before the runner crosses the plate, the run does not score. If the runner crosses the plate before the tag, 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 inning ended in a “Time Play.”
- Credit Meckler for hustling home and “RUNNING THROUGH THE PLATE.” It is a common bad habit among runners to slow down when they approach the plate, because they know that there is not a play being made on them. Sometimes an on- deck batter or a runner who just scored, will further exacerbate the problem by raising his arms to indicate the runner should slow down. Meckler was apparently aware that he was in a race against “Time.”
- Metz, the plate umpire, had to judge what came first-the third out call at first base or Meckler crossing the plate. He ruled that Meckler beat the third out at first base. Notice how Metz got into a position where he was able to see the runner crossing the plate as well as the third out involving the trail runner.
- I use the term “crossing the plate” instead of touching the plate. If a runner crosses the plate without touching it, he is considered as having touched the plate and for the purpose of the rule, he has beaten the third out on the trail runner unless the defensive team appeals. This is true at any base. Let’s say in the above situation Meckler crossed the plate before DeJong was doubled-up but he failed to touch the plate. The run would score unless the defensive team appeals the “Fourth Out” which would be Meckler not touching the plate.
- Most “Time Plays” occur when the batter makes the second out of the inning which is a fly ball or line drive that is caught in the outfield and there are runners on first and third or second and third and both tag-up, or it can be a base hit with two outs and runners on first and second. The runner on second attempts to score and the runner on first attempts to reach third base and there is a play at third base which would not be a force play. Those are RED FLAG situations for a possible “Time Play.”
Create a Time Play
Runner on First Induces Throw from Pitcher
There are different ways a team can create a “Time Play” to score a run. The following strategy can be used especially when the manager of the offensive team does not like the batter-pitcher matchup and there are runners on first and third and two outs in a close game. The runner on first takes an extended lead to draw a throw from the pitcher. The runner gets into a long rundown while the runner on third breaks to the plate and crosses the plate before the third out is made on the trail runner. This can be very effective because I think most infielders will focus on the runner in the rundown and ignore the runner who is dashing home. Also, a smart runner will try to head-hunt a sleeping defender who does not have possession of the ball and is not in the act of fielding a throw and impedes the runner in his restricted 6-foot wide baseline. If the runner is impeded, he should be awarded the next base after the last base he touched under the Type 1 obstruction rule.
Runner Runs Through Second Base on Inning-Ending Force Out
In a bases loaded situation and two outs, there is going to be a bang-bang force play at second base. The runner on first base RUNS THROUGH SECOND BASE (does not slide) and beats the throw. He is subsequently tagged-out in a rundown between second and third. But because the force was removed, the runner on third scored since he crossed the plate before the third out was recorded. The Cards’ Taylor Motter successfully executed this strategy earlier in the season.
Minor League Time Play- A Possible Fourth Out Appeal?
In this recent minor league game, the offensive team had runners on second and third and one out when the batter flied to center field. The center fielder made a diving catch. The runner on second took off without tagging-up and was doubled-up at second for the third out. The runner, who was on third, properly tagged-up and crossed the plate before the third out was recorded.
I was asked if this was a possible “Fourth Out” situation? The answer is “No,” because the runner who was on third, properly tagged-up and crossed the plate before the third out was recorded. Because he crossed the plate before the runner on second was doubled-up, the run counts. If the runner on third never tagged-up on the play, the defensive team could have appealed the “Fourth Out” at third base after they appealed the third out at second base. Because this was not a force situation, the order of the appeals is irrelevant.
Also, notice that the runner who tagged-up at third base did not run hard THROUGH THE PLATE and made the play closer than it should have been. The plate umpire did a good job by backing up a few feet so he could see the runner crossing the plate as well as the third out putout at second base.
There are different components that make up the anatomy of a successful run-scoring inning-ending “Time Play.” The most important are: (1) The lead runner hustles THROUGH THE PLATE for the purpose of beating the third out on the trail runner which is what Meckler did, but the minor league runner did not do; (2) In certain situations, it can be effective for the trail runner to back pedal or reverse course to encourage a rundown to buy time for the lead runner to cross the plate; and (3) The third base coach plays an important role in hurrying the lead runner to run hard THROUGH
THE PLATE, or the trail runner to back pedal or reverse course and get into a long rundown and maybe draw the obstruction call.
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