May 29, 2023

What Happens When Two Runners are on the Same Base?

This report covers the topic of "Two Runners on the Same Base" from both an offensive and defensive perspective

What Happens When Two Runners are on the Same Base?

On May 20, 2023 the Orioles and Blue Jays played at the Rogers Centre. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Jays had Brandon Belt on third and Matt Chapman on second with one out when Danny Jansen hit a bouncer to O’s pitcher Grayson Rodriguez. Rodriguez ran at Belt who was heading home. Belt was now hung-up in a rundown between third and home. Rodriguez tossed to third baseman Gunnar Henderson who ran at Belt before tossing to catcher Adley Rutschman. The O’s catcher ran Belt back to third base where Chapman was parked.

The Blue Jays now had two runners on the same base. Rutschman tagged Chapman and Belt in that order. Third base umpire Adam Beck incorrectly called Belt out. Jansen advanced to second base on the play.

Plate ump Dan Iassogna convened his crew and properly declared Chapman out and allowed Belt to remain on third base.

Ruleball Comment

  1. Umpire Adam Beck incorrectly called Belt out, but the umpires consulted and properly called Chapman, the trail runner, out because Belt was not forced from third base at the start of play.
  2. There is no rule that prohibits two (or even three) runners on the same base, but if two runners occupy the same base and both are tagged the trail runner is out unless the lead runner is forced from that base.
  3. Official Baseball Rule 5.06(a)(2), states, “Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged and the preceding runner is entitled to the base, unless Rule 5.06(b)(2) applies which basically states, “If two runners are touching a base at the same time, the following runner is out unless the lead runner is forced.”
  1. I am often asked my opinion, how teams should handle the situation from an offensive and defensive standpoint.


  1. In my opinion, the offensive team should never, if possible, have two runners on the same base. On several occasions, I have seen both runners get tagged and the runner who has the right to the base thinks he’s out and exits the base. He is then also tagged, and the defensive team has executed an easy double play. 
This is what happens in this play that occurred May 28, 2023, when the Cubs hosted the Reds. Two runners ended up on 3B. The catcher, Yan Gomes, tagged both runners and the trail runner, Kevin Newman was properly called out. The lead runner, Nick Senzel then stepped off the base and was tagged out by Gomes and the Cubs executed a double play. Senzel protested to the umpire but since Newman was not forced to 3B, the base belonged to Senzel.
  1. IMO, the runner who first reaches the base, should own the base, and if possible, the other runner should get into a rundown. While in the rundown, it’s possible to pick-up the Type 1 obstruction call.
  2. In the above play, Chapman got to third base first. If Belt could have changed direction and returned toward home, this would keep the defensive team busy.
  3. Belt was running hard back to third which would have made it difficult to change direction. If he had noticed Chapman on third base, he could have simply stopped and given himself up or he could have tried to return home in some manner. Falling to the ground and heading back to the plate might have been his best bet, especially if Rutschman had thrown the ball to third base. By doing so the runner stays in his restricted baseline which is a straight line to the base he is going to, and he cannot exceed 3-feet to either side of the line when avoiding the tag. Therefore, the runner has 6-feet to play with. If Rutschman without possession of the ball and not in the act of receiving a throw remained in Belt’s restricted 6-foot baseline, Belt could head hunt the catcher and pick up a Type 1 obstruction call. He would then score, and Chapman would remain on third base.   
  4. If Belt got to the base first, Chapman could have headed back to second and in the rundown try to pick-up the obstruction call. If he did, he would get third base and Belt would be bumped home and score.
  5. When two runners are on the same base (it’s usually third base) and both are tagged, the third base coach should be sure to keep both runners on the base until the umpire emphatically directs the runner who is out to leave the base. If the situation occurs at the other bases, either base coach needs to direct the traffic jam.


  1. In the above play, the O’s properly handled the rundown keeping the number of throws to a minimum and vacating properly.
  2. While executing the rundown, the defensive players must be aware the runner has a 6-foot wide baseline. Therefore, it’s important that they vacate properly. If a defensive player is not in possession of the ball, nor is he in the act of receiving a throw, he is vulnerable to being called for obstruction. A smart runner will seek this out.
  3. Rutschman wisely tagged both runners. He even tagged Chapman first which was the proper thing to do.
  4. After both runners are tagged, whichever one gets off the base should also be tagged in case the wrong runner vacates the base. The fielder should keep tagging until “Time” is called by the umpire.

Posey Tags Retired Runner

Former Giants’ catcher Buster Posey had a 12-year major league career. He is one of the most experienced and best catchers in the game, yet he became confused about the rule when the Giants hosted the Dodgers on Sept. 3, 2021. In the top of the ninth, the Dodgers had Corey Seager on second and Justin Turner on third and one out when Will Smith hit a ground ball to Thairo Estrada. The Giants’ second baseman threw home to Posey, who chased Turner, the lead runner, back to third. When Turner arrived at third base, he found Seager, the trail runner, standing on the base.

Posey wisely tagged both runners. As soon as Seager, the trail runner, was tagged, he was called out by umpire Nestor Ceja. Seager and Turner both left the base. Posey inexplicably reacted by attempting to go after Seager who was already out. If he had instead tagged Turner when he vacated the base, the Giants would have executed a double play. Meanwhile, Turner returned safely to third base.

Posey’s mental error could have proved costly but fortunately for the Giants, they won the game, 3-2 in 11-innings.

Trail Runner Has Rare Right to the Base

It’s seldom that the trail runner has the right to the base, but it occurred in Game Five of the 2010 ALDS played between the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field because the lead runner was forced from his base at the start of play.

The Rays had Jason Bartlett on first base and no outs when Ben Zobrist bunted a 2-1 Cliff Lee pitch in the air between home and first. Rangers’ first baseman Mitch Moreland made a valiant effort to catch the ball, but he trapped it into his glove. Bartlett, thinking that Moreland caught the ball, retreated to first base. Moreland then threw to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was covering first base a few feet from the bag. Kinsler tagged Bartlett, who was on the base, for the putout and was called out by first base umpire Mike DiMuro. By this time Zobrist had run through first base. On his return to the base, Kinsler also tagged Zobrist who shared the base with Bartlett. In this situation, Zobrist, the trail runner, was protected because Bartlett was forced from that base at the start of play. This set the stage for a potentially explosive situation. But DiMuro did an excellent job of umpiring by pointing to Zobrist that he had the right to the base.

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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