Asked in BaseballBaseball HistoryBaseball Rules and Regulations
How is it possible for a pitcher to make four or more strikeouts in one inning?
February 14, 2011 7:53PM
There is a rule in baseball known as the uncaught third strike rule. This rule states that a catcher must catch the ball from the pitcher on a third strike for an out to be recorded. If, on a third strike, the pitched ball touches the ground before reaching the catcher or the catcher does not cleanly catch the ball, the batter becomes a runner and may advance to first base and must be tagged or thrown out at first base for the out to be recorded.
For example, a batter swings and misses for strike three but the ball gets past the catcher and rolls back to the backstop. For the out to be recorded, the catcher must retrieve the ball and throw to first base before the batter gets there. If the batter beats the throw to first base, he becomes a base runner and is not out. In this situation, the pitcher is credited with a strikeout. The official scorer will rule as to whether the pitcher will also be charged with a wild pitch or the catcher will be charged with a passed ball (the reason the batter reached base).
So the pitcher strikes out the first batter but the ball gets by the catcher and the batter reaches first base. The pitcher then cleanly strikes out the next three batters. For the inning, the pitcher is credited with 4 strikeouts.
The uncaught third strike rule does not apply when there is a runner on first base and there are less than two outs. This keeps the catcher from intentionally dropping a third strike which would allow for an easy double play ... catcher throws to second base for one out and the second baseman/shortstop throws to first for the second out.
There is no uncaught third strike rule in Little League Baseball. The batter is automatically out on a third strike regardless of whether the catcher catches the ball or not.