The Situation: There is a runner at 1st base with 1 out in the 3rd inning. The offense is trailing 2-0 and has been unable to get anything going. The only runner (at first), reached on a dropped 3rd strike. The 9-hole hitter is up.
The Play: The 9-hole hitter bounces a chopper towards the second baseman. The ball’s trajectory leads him right into the baseline, where he collects the high hop, tags the runner from first out as he runs by and throws to first, completing the double play by a step and a half.
The Outcome: The inning is over and the momentum remains with the defense, who have not had any pressure placed on them thus far. The pitcher remains in a rhythm, and the defense turned offense has a chance to add to their 2-run lead.
What went wrong?
As a base runner, you never want to run into a sure out if there is another alternative. In this case, the runner at 1st put no thought into his plan. He ran towards the tag, knowing that unless the second baseman misses an easy hop, he will be tagged out. In doing this, he not only gives up his out easily, but he also gives the second baseman enough time to complete the double play.
These situations happen most commonly at second base, but also at other bases where there is a force out. With the ground ball, the runner from first must run. But that doesn’t mean that he should do so without some strategy. Since the ball is chopped, he should know that the play at first has a chance to be close depending on who is running. In this case, he should stop before getting to the fielder, forcing him to make a decision. If he chases the runner down and tags him out, he has given the batter valuable time to get to first safely and continue the inning. If the second baseman throws to first, he at least has some chance of getting to second safely, or being safe in a run-down. Either way, having some chance (however slim) to extend the inning is better than a sure double play. Never run into an automatic out if there is any alternative. You never know what could have happened with the lead off hitter coming up and a runner on base, and unfortunately because of the thoughtless play, we will never find out.