The Situation: Runner on 2nd, 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th, the offense is down by 1. The base runner isn’t very fast, but neither team has done much with the bats all day, so he’s going to have to try and score if the hitter singles.
The Play: The hitter rifles a ground ball through the left side. The runner on second had a strong secondary lead and takes off for the plate. The left fielder charges the ball hard and comes up throwing. The hitter reaches first base and looks at the play developing in front of him. He isn’t sure if he can break for second, because the third baseman has his hands up high and is calling for the ball as the cutoff man. It looks like the runner from second will probably score, so as the throw comes out of the left fielder’s hand toward the cutoff man, the hitter stops at first.
The Outcome: The cutoff man was watching the hitter, but once he stops at first, the cutoff man lets the throw through on the line. It one hops the catcher perfectly and the catcher seals off the dish just as the runner slides into the plate. The umpire calls the runner out, and the inning is over.
What Went Wrong?
In some situations, especially early in a game, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with this play. But late in a game, when you’re scrapping for a run, you have to do everything you can in order to get that run home, even if it means running yourself out of the inning on the base paths.
The first thing you need realize is that the runner on second is slow. Understanding the situation as you walk up to the plate plays a huge factor in executing the mental side of the game. You need to understand that you can help that runner score from second.
As soon as the ball gets through the left side for a base hit, you know that the runner is going to be waved to the plate. If you aren’t sure, take a peak at your third base coach. If you see that the (slow) runner is going for the plate YOU HAVE TO BREAK FOR SECOND BASE! It doesn’t matter that the cutoff man will throw you out easily. You want to draw the throw away from the plate. Your team will give up an out at second base to ensure that the run scores and the game is tied. If you see the cutoff man cut the throw and know that you’re dead in the water between first and second, stop. Turn it into a first and third-type play. Stay in a run-down and the run will score.
Understand that late in the game, you have to scratch out every run you can get. A coach will give up an out in a second if it means that a run will score that otherwise might get thrown out at the plate. This whole play banks on your ability to understand the situation before you even hit the ball. Be ready to help your win in any way you can. Understand what you have to do in every situation. Think the game.