Baseball Rundown Rules
In baseball, players must get hits and run the bases to score runs. One of the worst situations a base runner can find themself in is a rundown. Keep reading to learn the rules of rundowns in baseball.
A rundown, often referred to as a “pickle,” is a situation in baseball where a runner gets caught between two bases, with basemen ready to throw the ball back-and-forth on either side of them. Typically, the runner realizes they will be tagged out if they try to make it to the next base, and they instead turn back towards the base they came from. In return, the defender with the ball will throw the ball past the runner to the other base. This will cause the runner to turn around and run back towards the other base. This cycle will continue until either the runner is tagged out, they reach one of the bases safely, or the ball is thrown away.
How Do Rundowns Happen?
One of the most frequent ways a rundown can occur in a game is when a player gets picked off. A pickoff happens when the pitcher throws the ball to the base the runner is leading off from, and the ball beats the runner back to the bag. If the runner is not ready for this, and the ball beats them easily to the base, they may run away from the ball towards the other base, beginning a rundown.
Rundowns can also occur if the runner gets too aggressive and tries to run one base too far. This often happens when a ball is hit into the outfield and relayed back to the infield quicker than expected.
Occasionally, runners will purposefully get into rundowns. This often happens when the batting team has a runner on first base and on third base. The runner on first base will get caught in a rundown to distract the defense, while the runner on third base tries to reach home plate. The runner on first might get tagged out, but hopefully, the runner on third will score.
Getting Tagged Out
There are two ways fielders can get runners out in baseball: tagging the runner while holding the ball or touching the base a runner is forced to advance to in force out situations. Rundowns occur in non-force out situations, so the fielders are required to tag the runner out with the ball. If the runner is touching a base, they can not be tagged out. If the runner is not touching a base when they are tagged, they are out. Runners who reach a base safely have to be careful to remain in contact with the base while the play is still going.
Where Can the Runner Be?
Any base runner must stay in the basepath, an imaginary path six feet in width that stretches between consecutive bases. A runner may be tempted to leave the base path in a rundown to escape being tagged, but doing so will result in the runner being called out. Runners may move laterally to avoid being tagged, but only three feet to either side.
Where Can Fielders Be?
Fielders have to be careful not to obstruct the runner during a rundown. A fielder who does not have the ball is not allowed to obstruct or make contact with the runner in the basepath. If the fielder obstructs the runner, the play is over, and the runner gets to advance to the next base automatically. For example, if the obstruction takes place between first and second base, the runner is awarded second base. If the runner runs into the fielder outside of the basepath, the runner is out.
What if There Are Two Runners?
Only one runner is allowed on a base at any time. If two runners are touching the same base in a non-force out situation, the lead runner is safe while on base, and the following runner can be tagged out. This situation can potentially happen during or after a rundown.
Can a Run Be Scored During a Rundown?
If a run is scored on the same play that the third out of the inning is recorded, and it is not a force out, the run will count if it is scored before the third out is made. This can happen during a rundown if a player gets in a rundown in order to try to let a different runner score. To avoid a run being scored, the defense has to either tag the runner in the rundown before the other runner scores or tag the lead runner out.
Rundown Rules Summary
- Fielders can get base runners out through tag outs and force outs.
- Rundowns occur during non-force out situations, when fielders must tag the runner to get an out.
- Runners may not leave the base path to avoid being tagged.
- Two players may not occupy the same base.
- A player touching a base is safe and may not be tagged out.
- Base runners may intentionally force a rundown to allow a runner on third base to score.
What is a pickle in baseball?
The term “pickle” in baseball is an alternative way to describe a rundown. A rundown is a situation in which a base runner is caught between two bases and, in an attempt to avoid being tagged out, runs back and forth between the bases while the fielders throw the ball back and forth, trying to tag them. More often than not, the runner will end up being tagged out, but every so often, they elude being tagged and make it back to a base safely.
What happens when two runners are on the same base?
If two runners are on the same base, the lead runner has an entitlement to that base. This means that the following runner can be tagged out while the leading runner cannot, as long as they are touching the base. In the case of a force out, however, the lead runner would be deemed out, and the following runner would be safe. This rule can lead to multiple runners being caught in rundowns on the same play.
What should a fielder do to start a rundown?
Once it has become clear a rundown is about to start, the fielder should run at the runner with the ball held up in their throwing hand. This helps drive the base runner in the other direction, allowing the fielder to throw the ball to the other base once the runner is within tagging range. Other fielders not initially involved in the rundown should back up their teammates in order to keep a cycle of fielders running back and forth.