What Is a Fourth Out in Baseball?

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In the wide-ranging world of baseball, the concept of a ‘Fourth Out’ is both unique and intriguing. This term might initially sound like a contradiction, given the well-established rule that an inning ends after the third out. However, the Fourth Out is an actual term, primarily implemented to resolve specific situations that could potentially lead to disputes or confusion. This article will delve into the fascinating details of what a Fourth Out is, its implications, and how it’s used to maintain the order and fair play in the thrilling sport of baseball.

What is 4th out rule in baseball?

In the game of baseball, steeped in tradition and governed by intricate rules, there exists a unique provision known as the fourth out. This rule, as stated in Rule 7.10(d) of the Official Baseball Rules, allows the defensive team to secure an additional out even after three outs have been achieved in a half-inning. What makes this rule fascinating is that the ball remains in play after the third out. If the defense successfully executes an ensuing out that thwarts a run, this out supersedes the previous third out and becomes the official third out.

The existence of this unique rule has brought about strategic adjustments in the game, especially with the introduction of video replay appeals. Teams now attempt to make an extra out as an insurance measure, guarding against the possibility of a prior out being rescinded upon appeal. However, it is crucial to note that these scenarios of a fourth out differ distinctively from instances where four strikeouts occur within an inning. Rest assured, according to Rule 7.10(d) of the Official Baseball Rules, the third out does not cause the ball to become dead.

Understanding 4th out with an example

Let’s consider a particular scenario to illustrate the intricacies of the fourth out rule in baseball: Imagine that bases are loaded with three runners, and with two outs already on the scoreboard, the batter strikes the ball that ends up within the field of play. Now, bear in mind two essential conditions: The ball hasn’t been declared dead due to reasons such as a home run, ground-rule double, umpire interference, or fan interference, and the ball wasn’t caught prior to hitting the ground. Subsequently, all three runners manage to cross home plate safely. However, a twist in the tale occurs when the runner initially stationed at first base skips second as he rounds the bases. Once this runner has completed his run, the batter, in an ambitious move, gets out while trying to turn a bases-clearing double into a triple. As it stands, three runners appear to have scored on the back of a perceivable double, with the batter out advancing.

4 out play in MLB history

Indeed, it rarely happens in baseball because the circumstances required for a four-out play are quite specific. The odds of all the necessary elements aligning in a single play are slim, which contributes to the rarity of four outs in one play. However, professional baseball history, spanning over a century, does contain a handful of instances where this unique situation has unfolded.

1989 Yankees vs. Brewers: Missed Fourth Out Costs Brewers a Run

In a game between the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1989, the Brewers failed to record a fourth out. A suicide squeeze turned into a pop-up caught by the Brewers’ pitcher, but confusion allowed the Yankees to score a run. The Brewers left the field, thinking the inning was over, but the umpire awarded the run to the Yankees.

2009 Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks: Dodgers Benefit from Missed Fourth Out

In a 2009 game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, a missed fourth out led to the Dodgers scoring a run. A line drive caught by the Diamondbacks’ pitcher resulted in confusion, and the Dodgers were awarded a run after the Diamondbacks left the field, thinking the inning was over.

2014 Mets vs. Braves: Braves Record “Insurance” Fourth Out

In a game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves in 2014, the Braves recorded an “insurance” fourth out to prevent a potential scoring threat. A close play at first was followed by successfully tagging out a runner at third, anticipating a video replay appeal. The Braves eventually won the game in a shutout.

2018 Mets vs. Padres: Fourth Out Ends Inning After Reversed Third Out

In a 2018 game between the Mets and San Diego Padres, a reversed third out led to a fourth out, ending the inning. A close play at the plate was overturned on replay, but the Padres’ runner, who slowed down, was tagged out at third, making it the fourth out. The Padres lost the challenge, and the inning concluded.

2022 Pirates vs. Nationals: Missed Fourth Out Allows Pirates to Score

In a 2022 game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals, a missed fourth out allowed the Pirates to score. A caught soft line drive led to confusion, and the Nationals left the field without making a clear appeal. The umpires later ruled that the run would count, and the Pirates won the game 8-7.

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James Arnold
I'm James, and I live in Stanislaus County, California. I'm playing Baseball for many years, and I love this sport so much that I also encourage my kids (Danny and Sara) to play Baseball & Softball.