April 11, 2023

Time Play 2023

Mark Cahna Running Through the Plate Turns Out Crucial for the Mets

Time Play 2023

The Marlins and Mets played at Citi Field on April 7, 2023. In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets had Mark Canha on third and Eduardo Escobar on first with one out when Tomás Nido, facing Tanner Scott, lofted a fly to left field that was caught by Jesús Sánchez. Canha tagged-up at third and hustled home. Escobar tagged-up at first base and was thrown out at second by Sánchez.  Second base umpire Jeff Nelson made the call.

Plate umpire Chris Segal ruled that because Canha crossed the plate before Escobar was tagged out for the third out, the run counted because the inning did not end in a force play nor did the batter-runner make the third out before reaching first base. It gave the Mets a 6-0 lead in a game they would win, 9-3.

Ruleball Comments

  1. This was the proper call and well executed by the umpires.
  2. 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 non-force tag-out of a trail 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.”
  3. If the tag occurs before the runner crosses the plate, the run does not score. If the runner crosses the plate before the tag, the run scores.
  4. The term “Time Play” is a popular term used by umpires. It is not found in the Official Baseball Rules.
  5. Most “Time Plays” occur when the second out of the inning 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. Remember, no force out can occur when a batter is retired on fly balls or line drives because the batter-runner never occupies first base to “force” runners to advance.  So, that is a RED FLAG for a “Time Play.
  6. A “Time Play” can also occur on a base hit. Let’s say there are runners on first and second and two outs when the batter singles to right field. The runner on second rounds third and attempts to score while the runner on first attempts to reach third base and is tagged. If the runner on second crosses the plate before the tag occurs, the run scores. If the third out tag occurs first, the run does not score.
  7. The coach responsible for the trail runner needs to have a good read when instructing advancement. Gambling on a close third out tag vs. the runner going home can be costly.
  8. Because the plate umpire is in the best position to see the tag as well as the runner crossing the plate, he has the responsibility of determining whether or not the run scores. The base coaches become pivotal players in these plays. They must properly direct the runners to hold, or advance. If the decision is for a runner to advance, he must run hard. Let’s look at the responsibility of the runners.

The Lead Runner

  1. The lead runner’s job is to get to the plate ASAP. He should RUN THROUGH THE PLATE like a batter-runner who is attempting to the beat out an infield hit as he sprints through first base. The third base coach must clearly communicate in some manner for the runner to RUN THROUGH THE PLATE. In the above play, Canha ran hard THROUGH THE PLATE. This is a video that all players in the organization should see. It is the model way to approach the plate in a “Time Play” situation. Also, let’s give Mets third base coach Joey Cora kudos for moving Canha along.
  2. The lead runner will often slow down because he is aware that the play is not being made on him at the plate. He will often look back and become a spectator to see if the trail runner is out or safe. Also, the lead runner is often slowed by an on-deck batter who holds his arms up indicating to the runner that he can slow down. Those three factors will slow the lead runner and decrease the chances for the run to score.

The Trail Runner

  1. The trail runner needs to have a keen understanding of the rule. In the above play, I would question the need for Escobar to advance to second considering the throw from left field to second base is normally not a long throw and it apparently was going to be a close play. Of course, it’s possible a team can run on the outfielder’s arm.
  2. If the trail runner is going to be an easy out, he should, if possible, do one of two things: (1) Back pedal or reverse his running path to his previous base and get in a rundown, if possible; (2) When avoiding the tag, fall to the ground. Those strategies will prolong the play and give the lead runner more time to advance to the plate.
  3. The trail runner, while in the rundown has a restricted baseline. It is a straight line to the base he is going to, and he has 3-feet on either side of that line. Therefore, a wise runner in a rundown will realize that he has 6-feet of real estate to work with. Often times, one of the defensive players in the rundown, will not vacate or rotate properly. This defender will find himself in the runner’s baseline without the ball and not in the act of fielding the throw. A smart runner will get a piece of this fielder and draw the Type 1 obstruction call that is made when a runner is obstructed with a play being directly made on him. The obstruction creates a dead ball and the runner is awarded one base from the last base he legally touched.

Create a Time Play

  1. 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. Take the following play:

The White Sox and Indians played a doubleheader on May 31, 2021, in Cleveland.  In the first game, the Sox put up four runs in the top of the second inning capped off with a nifty execution of a “Time Play” which led to an 8-6 Sox win.

Chicago had Zack Collins on third and Tim Anderson on first with two outs. Jake Lamb was at bat facing Triston McKenzie. The Indians’ right hander threw to first in an attempt to pick-off Anderson who had a huge lead. Anderson ended-up in a rundown and was out 1-3-6-4. But while Anderson was keeping the Indians’ defense busy, Collins streaked home and crossed the plate ahead of the third-out tag. Plate umpire Sean Barber ruled that Collins crossed the plate before the tag was made. Because the third out was not a force out, Collins was allowed to score.

Did Anderson intentionally induce the throw to first base? It appears it was quite possible. This is a good way to set the trap for the infielders who are executing the rundown. Since there is a good chance they won’t have a good understanding of the “Time Play” rule, chances are they will ignore the runner (Collins) advancing home and give full attention to the runner (Anderson).

Rich Marazzi

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

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