RUNNING OUT THE THIRD STRIKE.
Every baseball fan is aware that a dropped third strike entitles the batter to first base unless he is put out by a tag or a tag of first base by a fielder with the ball. The batter, of course, is not entitled to reach first base if that base is occupied, unless it is the third out of the inning.
A play during this year's playoffs has prompted me to ask how the rule is applied in special circumstances. Two outs, a runner on second, and the third strike goes wild. The catcher retrieves the ball and throws to first in time to retire the batter. In the meantime, however, the runner from second is streaking around third base toward home, while the pitcher stands on the mound. Question: (1) If the runner had tagged home plate before the out was registered at first, would the run have counted? And (2) If the catcher had tagged the runner out rather than throwing to first, would it have been the third out or is the catcher's only option to try to retire the batter? Oddly enough, the commentators did not explore these questions.
Winter Park, FL
We turned to rules expert, Rich Marazzi, who pens our "So You Think You Know Baseball?" According to Rich, "The run would not have counted because the batter made the third out before reaching first base. The catcher could retire either the batter or the runner. To retire the runner, a tag would be required. A tag would not be required to retire the batter-runner."