Runners Passing Runners, Oh My!
Passing the Runner: Rule 5.09 (b) (9)
The passing the runner rule might be best understood if it read, “When two runners cross each other on the base paths while the ball is in play via a base hit, home run, error etc., the trail runner is called out.” The ball remains alive and in play.
The most common form of the violation occurs when there is a runner on first and the batter hits a deep fly that is near or just over the outfield wall. The lead runner, who is on first, thinks the ball was caught and retreats back to first base, sometimes to tag-up. The batter-runner (trail runner), who hits the ball, is focused on the ball and is oblivious to the lead runner who is returning to first base. The two cross and the batter-runner is called out. If the batter’s shot goes over the wall, he is credited with a single. The Phils’ Tim McCarver turned a grand slam home run into a grand slam single this way on July 4, 1976, when he was called out for passing teammate Garry Maddox who was heading back to first base in the first game of a twin bill at Pittsburgh.
If the ball remains in play and there are less than two outs at the time of the passing, the lead runner is allowed to remain on the bases, assuming he was not tagged-out during the play. If there are two outs before the passing occurs and a runner crosses the plate before the passing, the run scores. This would be a “Time Play” because the inning did not end in a force out or with the batter-runner making the third out before reaching first base.
Passing the runner plays occur in a variety of ways. Let’s look at a few:
Play No. 1 Grichuk passes Moss
The Cardinals beat the Brewers 7-0 in St. Louis on April 14, 2016. In the third inning, the Cards’ Randal Grichuk hit a drive to deep center off Wily Peralta that went off the glove and over the wall of leaping Brewers’ center fielder Keon Broxton for a two-run homer. However, Brandon Moss, the runner on first base, retreated to the base to tag-up in case the ball was caught. Grichuk, who did not locate Moss, passed him by a few feet as he rounded first base. Grichuk, the trail runner, should have been called out but incredibly nobody saw the violation and Grichuk was credited with a gift two-run homer.
Play No. 2 Realmuto has home run overturned
Just 25 days after Grichuk passed Moss, the same act was duplicated on May 9 when the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto hit an apparent one-out home run but was called out for passing Marcell Ozuna in the same manner. Ironically, both times the passing the runner rule came alive against the Brewers. And believe it or not, both times the first base umpire failed to see the violation. This time, however, the Brewers were alert to the situation and challenged the call. Thanks to the eye in the sky in NYC, the violation was picked-up. Ozuna, the lead runner, was allowed to score and Realmuto, who was called out on the play, was credited with an RBI single.
You can view the play by going to the link below:
Play No. 3 Soto passes Turner
In the opening game of the Braves-Nationals doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon, Juan Soto, batting in the bottom of the third with one out and Trea Turner on first, hit a ball off the center-field wall before being ruled out for passing Turner. Soto’s knock in the third inning hit the wall just as center fielder Ender Inciarte arrived. Inciarte bobbled the ball before it ricocheted to Adam Duvall, who snagged it after running over from left field. It was not a catch because the ball was no longer “in flight” once it hit the wall. Turner, meanwhile, believing the ball was caught, sprinted back to first. Soto, also apparently thinking the ball was caught, headed back toward the dugout. While Turner whizzed past him, Soto, the trail runner, was called out and credited with a single. Oddly, both runners were going in the same direction when Soto was called out. This is something I have never seen.
You can view the play by going to the link below:
Play No. 4 Sanchez passes Stanton
A most unusual style of a passing the runner violation occurred on April 6 in the Orioles-Yankees game in New York. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Yankees had Gioncarlo Stanton on third base and Gary Sanchez on first with one out when Neil Walker tapped a grounder back to O’s pitcher Richard Bleier. Bleier ran at Stanton to create a rundown. During the rundown, Sanchez reached third base. With Sanchez parked on third, Stanton ran through the base several feet down the left field line. O’s catcher Caleb Joseph tagged Sanchez then headed for Stanton who ran beyond third base and was tagged. The O’s should have been credited with a double play but only Stanton was called out. Sanchez should have been called out as well because he was the trail runner in the play. The moment Stanton ran through third base, Sanchez was now positioned in front of Stanton and should have been called out for passing the runner. When play resumed, he was incorrectly allowed to remain on third base.
You can view this play going to the link below:
- The trail runner and the base coach must be aware of the actions of the lead runner.
- The coach and runners should try to pick-up the umpire’s call. If the umpire makes a safe sign, it means the ball is in play. Long distance fly balls that carry near the wall are red flags for passing the runner violations when there is a runner on first base. This should alert the first base coach.
- If an incorrect signal is made by the umpire, and the signal puts the runner/s in jeopardy, the play can be corrected by either the umpiring crew on the field or the Replay Official in NYC.
- A runner can physically assist another runner and all players need to know this. Either one can physically hold off the other.
- The first base coach should pick-up the umpire’s signal to assist in the play.