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Baseball Rules Corner.

Umpires must unravel confusion resulting from "time plays"

IF THE RED SOX SHOULD LOSE THE A.L. East by a game or if they should get bumped out of the wildcard race, they might look back to their game against the Tigers last May 20 at Fenway Park. In that contest, poor base running resulting in a "time play" cost them a run. Here is what happened.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the score tied 1-1, the Red Sox had Trot Nixon on third and Brian Daubach on second when Carl Everett lifted a fly ball to Bobby Higginson. Nixon tagged-up at third and went home. But Daubach, who went too far off second base, and never tagged up, was doubled at second base before Nixon touched home plate.

"I was assuming Nixon would score," Higginson said. "I was trying to get a double play to end the inning. Having him not score was a bonus."

Detroit went on to win the game 2-1. And Brian Daubach and the Red Sox could be added to a list of those victimized by "time plays" over the years.

A "time play" occurs when the third out of an inning is not the result of a force or a batter-runner being retired before reaching first base in an inning-ending third out, and a run scores before the third out is recorded. "Time plays" come in various shapes and sizes. Let's take a look at a few.

I got a kick out of one I witnessed during an Old-Timer's Day game at Yankee Stadium on July 13, 1985.

Ken Keltner was batting with two outs in the top of the first inning with Bobby Avila on third and Willie Mays on first. Keltner sprayed an Allie Reynolds offering to right field. Avila scored and Mays circled the bases attempting to score.

The "Say Hey" kid jogged the last 90 feet and stopped to watch Keltner who was en route to second base. Keltner was tagged out by Gene Michael before Willie stepped on the plate. Umpire Bill Hailer properly disallowed Mays' run.

Simply stated, the third out (Keltner) occurred before the runner (Mays) touched home plate.

The plate umpire is normally responsible in determining whether or not a run scores in such inning-ending plays. The reason for this is his total vision of the field. The plate umpire must be aware of situations when a runner passes another runner, intervening plays, squeeze plays, plus potential four-out innings among other scenarios.

Take what happened on April 18, 1994 at Yale Field in New Haven, Connecticut where the New Haven Ravens met the Bowie Baysox in a Double-A Eastern League matchup.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Ravens were leading Bowie 3-1. The Baysox had the bases loaded and one out when Rob Lukachyk hit a Phil Schneider pitch deep to center field which the Ravens' Quinton McCracken ran down.

The Bowie runners on second and third held their base for the purpose of tagging up and advancing. But Curtis Goodwin, the runner on first, was off with the crack of the bat and passed Ken Arnold, the runner on second, for the third out.

Goodwin's mistake took place before Cesar Devarez, the runner en third, reached home plate.

Umpires Jeff Nelson and Eric Cooper were on top of the play and disallowed Devarez's run from scoring.

Normally, when a batter-runner makes the third out before reaching first base, no run can score. A routine ground ball to the infield or a squeeze play where no play is made at the plate are good examples. Bur the exception to the rule is when an intervening play takes place.

Let's say the Cardinals have the bases loaded with two outs when J.D. Drew taps to Cubs' pitcher Jon Lieber who throws home for an inning-ending force but Jim Edmonds, the runner on third, is called safe at home. Cubs' catcher Joe Girardi then throws to first to retire Drew for the third out. In the process, the ball hits Drew who is called out for running outside the runner's box the last 45 feet. In this case, Edmonds' run would count even though the batter-runner (Drew) made the third out before reaching first base.

Since the throw home to retire Edmonds was an intervening play and he was safe before Drew was ruled out, Edmonds' run counts. It's an unusual example of "time play" but another aspect of the rule that umpires must deal with.

By the way, if there was no intervening play, and Drew interfered with Girardi's throw, then all runners would have to return to the last base they occupied before the start of play.

If the aforementioned play was a squeeze play and the Cubs made no effort to retire Edmonds and Drew was put out at first base, the run would not count since Drew, the batter-runner, made the third out before reaching first base.

"Time plays" can involve an apparent "fourth out" if properly appealed. Look at what happened at Yankee Stadium on the evening of July 1, 1989 when the Yankees hosted the Brewers. The confusion over a rare type of "time play" kept the fans and players in the dark as to the final score. Here is what happened.

With one out in the eighth inning and New York leading 4-1, the Yankees had Mike Pagliarulo at third base and Bob Geren at first when Wayne Tolleson attempted a suicide squeeze bunt that was caught in the air by pitcher Jay Aldrich on the first base side of the mound.

Realizing he had an easy double play, Aldrich took his time and tossed the ball to first baseman Greg Brock to end the inning.

Pagliarulo, who broke with the pitch, crossed the plate before Geren was doubled off first base for the third out.

Notice, the inning did not end in a force play since Geren was not forced to advance once Aldrich caught Tolleson's bunt in the air, nor was Tolleson (the batter) the third out of the inning.

After Geren was doubled-up at first for the third out, the Brewers should have thrown the ball to third base and appealed that Pagliarulo left the bag without tagging up on Tolleson's bunt-fly to Aldrich.

If they did, the Brewers would have recorded a "fourth out", a rarity in the annals of baseball history. If the "fourth out" was made, it would have superseded the third out per rule 7.10 since it would have nullified Pagliarulo's run.

When the game ended, most fans and players thought the final score was 4-1 since the umpires did not properly communicate Pagliarulo's run to the official scorer. But the final score was actually 5-1 which affected the final game statistics.

The following day, Milwaukee manager Tom Trebelhorn got into a heated discussion with crew chief Larry Barnett while exchanging the lineup cards.

Barnett did admit he should have been more emphatic the night before in declaring Pagliarulo's run, but Trebelhorn and the Brewers should have realized the inning ended in a "time play" not a force play and should have appealed the fourth out."
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Publication:Baseball Digest
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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