Men on first and second, nobody out, the defense is leading by 1 in the 7th inning.
The pitcher knows he has to keep the runner at second from scoring. He does not want to give up the tying run. He throws a great pitch but the hitter lunges out and hits a ground ball right back at the mound. The pitcher scoops it up and immediately thinks about the tying run at second base. He throws to third for the force out, but the third baseman is unable to get off a throw to first. Runners on first and second, one out.
The next hitter walks on 5 pitches and the runners advance. The following hitter hits a sacrifice fly and the game is tied.
What Went Wrong?
In this situation, the pitcher let his emotions get the better of him before he threw the pitch. He was so caught up thinking about the tying run at second that he didn’t have the correct pre-pitch plan. In this situation, the pitcher’s play is always going to be to second because a good throw to second gives the infield the best chance to turn a double play. The defense needs to focus on what college coaches call “collecting outs.” That means that they have to find outs wherever they can get them. If the pitcher throws the ball to third, he only gets one out, and not only is the tying run still in scoring position, but the go-ahead run is still on base. If the pitcher throws to second, the tying run is in scoring position at third, but the pitcher gets 2 outs and the go-ahead run isn’t on base. The vast majority of the time, the hit that scores a runner from third with 2 outs will also score the same runner from second with 2 outs. With that in mind, trading 2 outs for 1 in order to keep the lead runner off of third doesn’t seem like such a great deal.
As the game gets to crunch time and the pressure mounts, you have to get smarter and better at thinking the game. By reading this you are off to a great start!