Third Out on Appeal – Does the Run Score?

Here’s a really good question that came in this week. The issue is when the third out is made on appeal (a runner failed to tag up, for example, and is called out on appeal for the third out). Let’s add a twist. Let’s say the runner who is called out on appeal was at second base (he’s R2), but there was also a runner at third (R3) who scored on the play. Here’s the full scenario:

  • There is one out and you have runners on second and third (R2, R3).
  • Batter hits a deep fly ball to right field that is caught for the second out.
  • Following the catch, both R2 and R3 tag up and advance one base; R2 is now on third and R3 has scored.
  • However, the defense believes R2 left early (failed to tag up), and executes a proper appeal at second base.
  • The umpire upholds the appeal and calls R2 out. That’s the third out.

Here’s the question:  Does the run scored by R3 on the play count, or does it come off the board?

The run counts

Yep, in this case the run counts. This is effectively a time play, so the run scored by R3 stays on the board. To better understand what’s going on, let’s start with one of baseball’s most basic rules, Rule 5.08 (“How a team scores”). We’re going to look specifically at Rule 5.08(a), including (most importantly) the “Exception”:

5.08(a) One run shall be scored each time a runner legally advances to and touches first, second, third and home base before three men are put out to end the inning.

Exception: A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

Everything you need to know to rule correctly on this and similar cases is in this rule and its exception. Of course, the rule notwithstanding, you’re almost always going to get an argument, because the rule is poorly understood, by coaches in particular, but also by some umpires. In most cases the argument you’ll hear from a coach is that this was a “force play” (which it isn’t), and that you can’t score runs when the third out is made on a force play. But the coach doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

So when does the run NOT count on a third out appeal?

The discussion so far begs the question: Under what circumstances does a run not count when a third out is made on appeal? It’s a good question because these are the situations cause the confusion that drives all of the arguments.

To get our answer, we have to read carefully each of the three exceptions that are listed in Rule 5.08(a)(Exception). All three of these exceptions look familiar because, except for (3), they’re really common cases in nearly every baseball game you see. The trick is applying these exceptions to an appeal play. Don’t let that throw you off.

  • Exception (1): This is one of the most common events in baseball. The batter-runner makes the third out before safely reaching first. This is your basic batted ball to the infield, 6-3, for example, or straight-up double play (6-4-3). Everyone knows that no run scores on this play.

I can think of only two appealable infraction on the batter-runner on a play like this that can result in his being called out at first base on appeal – (a) failing to touch first base while advancing (as if on a double), and (b) failing to return directly to first base after overrunning the bag [Rule 5.09(b)(4)]. In both of these cases, if the umpire upholds a proper appeal on the runner at first, and if that out is the third out, then no run can score on the play.

  • Exception (2): If the third out is made on appeal of a runner who is forced to the base where the infraction is appealed, no run scores on that play. For example, let’s say you have bases loaded with two outs and the batter hits a three-run double. Three runs score and the batter-runner is standing on second. But then the defense executes a proper appeal at second base maintaining that the runner from first (R1) failed to touch second base. If the umpire upholds the appeal at second (to which R1 was forced), and if that was the third out, then no runs score and the half-inning is over.

You can change up this scenario in a lot of ways and get the same result. The point is, if the third-out appeal is at a base to which a runner was forced, then no runs score. You can think of this as basically Exception (1), but as a fielder’s choice.

  • Exception (3): This one is a bit less common, but can still cause arguments. We saw in discussing Exception (1) that a base runner called out on appeal does not affect the scoring status of a preceding runner who has already scored on the play. However, when the situation is reversed and the third-out appeal succeeds on a player who scores, and where following runners also score, then none of the runs will count. The runner on whom the appeal was made does not score, of course, because he’s been called out on appeal. And since he was the third out, anyone following him obviously also doesn’t score.

Sometimes having the decision tree as a graphic helps understand the process of ruling on situations like this. Sometimes not. I’ll let you be the judge. Note, however, that the decision tree doesn’t cover all possible scenarios. It represents the basics – the starting point for ruling on third-out appeal scoring.


19 thoughts on “Third Out on Appeal – Does the Run Score?

  1. This scenario just happened in a youth softball game. 2 outs runner on third (tying run). Humpback liner to SS. Base umpire makes an out call on catch. SS lays ball in circle end of inning. Coach appeals the catch and home plate umpire says no catch. What happens? It should be noted after the original out call the SS stoped playing (like a whistle in other sports).

  2. What a mess. No way to fix this. It’s against the rules for one umpire to change the call of another umpire. The umpires get together and talk about what they saw if the umpire who made the call decides to change his call he can or not. In this cause because there’s no way to fix it I’d let the call stand.

  3. The situation is 1 out runner on first and third. Batter hits a line drive to 3rd baseman which he drops. He throws the ball to 2nd for the force out and then the ball gets thrown to 1st because the batter-runner rounded first and tried to go back, but the runner was called out by tag for the third out. The runner did not cross the plate before the third out was called. The homeplate umpire then appealed the call and the tag at first for the third out was overturned. Does the runner score at this point?

  4. @Joey The HP ump cannot appeal a call, not sure what you mean here. The umpires (most likely the one at 1B) must rule as to whether the runner overrunning first base was attempting to take second or not. If the runner-batter rounded first, and the existing runner (who had been at first) was tagged out at second, there is no force situation. In your scenario he was tagged out but apparently this call was overturned? It must be that the umpire judged he was not trying to take second.

    In your scenario, the only way I see that a run does not score is if the defense manages to turn a double play…. or if the batter runner was called out, and the runner from third crossed the plate before being tagged.

  5. Seems to me that part (3) of the Exception would rule that the run would not count, as the preceding runner failed to tag (i.e. touch) 2nd base.

    EXCEPTION: A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.

    1. After looking at this again, I misunderstood “preceding” as it obviously means the runner who came before the one scoring. This scenario is explained well above.
      I guess an appeal is simply too late to be in time to be the 3rd out before the run scores.

  6. We had this scenario in a kickball game and the ump got it right. I was confused.

    I don’t understand you point under Exception 1: “(b) failing to return directly to first base after overrunning the bag [Rule 5.09(b)(4)]. In both of these cases, if the umpire upholds a proper appeal on the runner at first, and if that out is the third out, then no run can score on the play.”

    If the runner overran 1st base and did not immediately return according to Rule 5.09(b)(4) they would need to be tagged out and the runs should count, no?

    1. I agree with Dan. If the runner overran 1st and failed to return directly to the bag, this means he made a move towards 2nd. In this case, if he is simply tagged out the runs should score if that runner crossed the plate before the tag play. I do not understand under what circumstance this would be an appeal play, so maybe I’m missing something.

  7. All measurements are in relationship to the back point of the plate. The plate is 17”, so it is 60’ 6” – 17”. The bases are 15”, and 1st is measured to far side of the bag. 1st to 2nd is foul line to middle of the 2nd base bag, 90’ – (15” + 7 1/2”) = 88’ 1 1/2”. Almost no one outside of an umpire knows these, and only because we have to set up the field when required. Anyone want to know why it’s the foul pole and not the fair pole?

  8. It is for the umpires reference for home runs, and an umpire never says Fair ball, just points to fair territory. On a foul ball he yells Foul! It’s for umps, not spectators or players. Sometimes players will do a dance looking at the pole. It has that effect. One cardinal rule for umps is you never yell the word Fair! Too easily confused with Foul and you don’t want to be the cause of stopping play with a live ball on the field! Play Ball!

  9. Runner at 2nd and 3rd two outs. line drive to center field, R2 runs to 2nd, and R3 tags up. The girl throws the ball to second base (2nd basemen is standing on the bag), and the umpire does not call the R2 out. They tag R2 out as they come back to second. Meanwhile R3 runs home.

    Umpires discuss and call R2 out, but allow the run to score. No appeal was made. Why would the run score in this instance. Wouldn’t the immediate tagging of the base trump everything? Just for clarity, the R3 did not cross home plate prior to the the throw arriving to 2nd base, but by the time they tag the runner, R3 has scored.

  10. Late to the party here, and perhaps this is covered elsewhere in your fine blog, but consider reversing this.

    Runner on second, two outs, when a ground ball results in a bang-bang play at first, with the batter initially called out. Runner on second continues around and properly touches third, and after the out call at first base, touches home. Then, the call at first is appealed and overturned, making the runner safe. The defense argues the runner should be placed at third, since they would certainly have continued the play, and the runner would not have tried to score, had the correct call been made.

  11. Bottom of the seventh game tied 17-17
    Bases-loaded 1 out
    fly ball to right center field for the second out
    Runner at second never tags up
    right center throws to the second base for the third out
    Does the runner from third going home count
    Runner from third did cross the plate before the force at second but does the run count

  12. In the 2nd and 3rd, fly ball to right, you said, “Yep, in this case the run counts. This is effectively a time play, so the run scored by R3 stays on the board. I am confused about it being a time play. What time are we talking about? When the appeal is made? Or when the defense steps on second? I would always assume that the run scores

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