Runners passing on bases

umpsSo this happened to me the other day. Not while scorekeeping, but unfortunately while umpiring a college game. Luckily this blog isn’t about game rules, so I’m not going to comment on whether me and my partners got the ruling completely correct (hint: we didn’t).

There were runners on 1st and 2nd when the batter hit a deep fly ball to centerfield.  The runner on 1st went halfway while the runner on 2nd tagged up.  The centerfielder got to the ball on the run (which caused the runner who was halfway between 1st and 2nd to start going back to 1st) and then he dropped the ball… which caused the batter to round 1st base at full speed. And yes, the batter passed the runner.  This is a fairly rare occurrence, which happens in the MLB about once every couple of years or so (here is a complete list thanks to The correct ruling is that the player who is passing the other runner (in this case the batter) is out immediately and the play continues on.  But how do you score that?

Well, the batter still gets credit for a hit. After all he made it to first base safely. And if any runs score on the play he gets the corresponding RBIs too. But who gets credit for the putout?

Scoring rule 10.08 (c) (4) says “When a runner is called out for passing another runner, the official scorer shall credit the putout to the fielder nearest the point of passing”.  So in this case, the first baseman gets credit for a putout… while the centerfielder was chasing down a ball in the outfield.

By the way, here is a recent example where Nelson Cruz got called out for passing the runner. Both he and the runner on 1st thought the ball had been caught, so the runner stayed at first, and Cruz went toward 1st before heading towards the dugout and at that point he crossed the runner and was ruled out.

Seemed to be as much confusion as in the game I officiated, so I don’t feel too bad.


About Ruben Lipszyc

I write about baseball. I'm a member of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Blogger's Alliance, and I write about my Red Sox and keep Albertans up to date on local baseball happenings at I occasionally also write articles for the Canadian Baseball Network at

Posted on May 11, 2015, in Did you know?. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. So if the batter is out immediately, I assume that means the lead runner could safely return to first base?

  2. Yes. Once the batter is out, the runner is no longer forced to advance.

  3. Searching for the right call to the play you described. Play happened exactly as the one you described. However, umpire ruled “dead ball” after calling the batter out for passing runner. He then made runners, who had advanced, return to their bases. Which rule declares that “play continues” after runner is immediately called out?

  4. Unfortunately, as an umpire, I learned this rule very well after kicking it in the situation above. The rule reference is 5.09(b)(9) in the MLB Rule Book which simply states that “Any runner is out when he passes a preceding runner before such runner is out”. There is no reference to the play being dead, which there is in other cases where the ball is immediately dead.

  5. Andrew Hirko

    I have a similar scenario. What if the batter flied out(center fielder caught the ball) and ran past the runner occupying first base? My thought is, if the batter is out then he is no longer a runner and nullifies the rule of passing another runner.

    What do you think?

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