Runner on First Attempts to Go to Second Base on Dropped Third Strike
When a batter strikes out on a dropped third strike and first base is occupied with less than two outs, the batter is automatically out. The rule is a close cousin of the Infield Fly rule. It is designed to protect the runners. Minus the rule, a catcher could intentionally drop a third strike and turn it into double play or triple play the same as an infielder could intentionally drop an Infield Fly to trigger a double or triple play.
If the batter strikes out on a dropped third strike with first base occupied and less than two outs and attempts to run to first base after he is called out, this is not illegal. The onus is on the defensive team to know that they don’t have to make a play on the batter-runner. You only have to retire a runner one time. And the runner on first base must be aware that, like a dropped fly ball when the Infield Fly rule is called, he does not have to advance to the next base under any condition.
Let’s review the following play that occurred in the Astros-Mariners game on April 10 in Seattle.
In the top of the second, the Astros had Carlos Beltran on first base and Evan Gattis at the plate facing James Paxton with one out when Gattis struck out on a 0-2 pitch in the dirt. Because there were less than two outs, Gattis was automatically out. But he took off for first and Beltran headed to second. Beltran either did not know that he did not have to run or he might have thought there were two outs, or possibly thought he could make it to second because the ball caromed off the catcher.
M’s catcher Mike Zunino wisely ignored Gattis and threw down to second. Beltran was easily retired 2-4-3.
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Do your catchers know that they are not required to make a play on a runner who is already retired? If Zunino threw wildly pass first base, and Beltran advanced on the play, this would be legal and is not considered interference.
Do your runners know they do not have to run if the batter-runner runs to first on a dropped third strike or a third strike that bounces in the dirt with first base occupied at the time of the pitch and less than two outs?
Don’t assume your players know rule 5.05 (a) (2) that reads, “The batter becomes a runner when the third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out.