Every once in a while in a baseball game, baserunners have to dodge a batted ball that is hit directly at them. Most of the time baserunners avoid being hit out of instinct, but it’s very possible a baserunner could get hit by a batted ball while running the bases. It’s rare to see baserunners get hit by a batted ball, but whenever there’s a close call on the basepaths between a live ball and a runner, it’s easy to wonder – what happens if a runner is hit by a batted ball?
When a runner is hit by a batted ball in fair territory, the play is ruled a dead ball, the runner is out, and the batter is awarded a single while the closest defender is credited with the putout. However, there are exceptions to this rule where runners are allowed to advance to the next base.
The rules of baseball have been adapted over the years so there are some scenarios where a baserunner is called safe after they have touched a live, batted ball. These exceptions to the rule include a runner being safe if they are touched by a batted ball after a fielder has made a play on the ball, a fielder deflecting the ball into a runner, or a runner is standing on base during an infield fly.
Scenarios Baserunners Are Out When Hit By a Batted Ball
Even though it’s rare to see a baserunner get hit by a batted ball, the most common scenario of a batted ball hitting a runner will result in an out while the batter is awarded a single. Let’s cover some of those scenarios that are outlined in the official MLB rulebook.
Fair Ball Touches the Runner Before the Infield Makes a Play
Out of all the ways the rules outline what should happen when a batted ball makes contact with a runner, the most common occurrence is when a batted ball hits a runner before an infielder can attempt to make a play on the ball.
In baseball, when a fair ball touches the runner before an infielder (not including the pitcher) makes a play on the ball, the play is ruled interference on the baserunner. The baserunner is out, the ball is dead, the batter is awarded a single, and the closest defender is credited with a putout.
This rule is outlined in section 6.01(a)(11) of the MLB Rulebook. Watch the video below to see a unique example of how this ruling plays out. Because of how baseball treats a batted ball hitting a runner, this game ended with the losing team getting a single on the last play of the game.
Intentionally Interfering with a Batted Ball Results in an Out
In baseball, it is illegal to intentionally interfere with a batted ball while you are a baserunner. Even though this is an illegal play, sometimes emotions run hot and players could intentionally interfere with a batted ball while they are running towards the next base.
The official MLB Rules outline two scenarios on what happens when it’s obvious that a runner is interfering with a batted ball with the goal of breaking up a double play.
Baserunner Deliberately Interferes with a Batted Ball to Break Up a Double-Play
Imagine a scenario where there is a baserunner on first and the batter hits a ball in the direction of that baserunner.
In this scenario, it could be very tempting for the runner to interfere with that batted ball. The runner knows there is a good chance a double play will occur and they could try to break up the double play by getting in front of the ball and taking one out instead of two.
Rule 6.01(a)(6) of the official MLB Rulebook addresses this scenario.
If a baserunner intentionally gets hit by a batted ball because they are trying to break up a double play, the play is ruled a dead ball, the runner is out for interference, and the batter is out because of the actions of their teammate.
So even though a runner might try to break up a double play by intentionally getting hit by a batted ball, the rules state that the play would result in a double play if the umpire believes the runner purposely interfered with the batted ball.
In the video below, one could argue the baserunner intentionally got hit by the batted ball to break up a double play. The good news for the offense was that it was not obvious to the umpire the baserunner was intentionally getting hit by the batted ball. If the umpire believed this play was intentional, then both the runner and the batter would be called out.
Batter Deliberately Interferes with a Batted Ball to Break Up a Double-Play
Similar to the scenario above, it is also illegal for a batter to intentionally interfere with their own batted ball in an attempt to break up a double play. Rule 6.01(a)(7) of the official MLB Rulebook addresses this scenario.
If a batter-runner intentionally interferes with a batted ball because they are trying to break up a double play, the play is ruled a dead ball, the batter-runner is out for interference, and whichever runner advanced the closest to home is out because of the actions of their teammate.
Regardless of where the double play might have occurred, the runner who advanced the closest to home is called out.
This means it’s possible for the batter to be called out for intentionally interfering with a batted ball, and then a runner who was advancing to third base could be called out if they were the closest to home. But this rule is only in effect when it’s obvious to the umpires that the batter intentionally interfered with the batted ball and had the goal of breaking up a double play.
An Infielder Makes a Play on the Ball, The Ball Touches the Runner, But Another Player Could Have Made a Play on the Ball
A more uncommon scenario of a runner being out after getting hit by a batted ball is when an infielder attempts to make a play on the ball, the ball hits the runner, and there is another infielder in position who could have also made the play. This scenario is outlined by Rule 6.01(a)(11) in the official MLB Rulebook.
For this scenario, imagine there is a runner on second base and the batter hits a ball in the hole between third base and shortstop.
For this rule to come into play, the third baseman would first need to make a play on the ball and miss the ball. After the third baseman missed the ball, the ball hits the runner. And while all of this is going on, the shortstop was in a position to make a play behind the third baseman and the runner.
If all of these things are true for this scenario, the play would be called dead, the runner would be out due to interference, the batter would be awarded a single, and whichever infielder was the closest to the play would be awarded the putout.
It’s already rare to see a runner get hit by a batted ball so it would be even rarer to see a runner get hit by a batted ball after one fielder missed the ball, but there was another fielder in position to also make a play on the ball.
Scenarios Baserunners Are Safe When Hit By a Batted Ball
Most baseball players would agree that a runner is out after getting hit by a batted ball, but there are actually a few scenarios where a runner is not out after getting hit by a batted ball.
An Infielder Makes a Play on the Ball, The Ball Touches the Runner, And No Other Player Could Make a Play on the Ball
As eluded to in the previous section about why a player is out after getting hit by a batted ball, one scenario where a runner is not called out after getting hit by a batted ball is after a fielder (excluding the pitcher) has made a play on the ball.
According to Rule 6.01(a)(11) of the official MLB Rulebook, once a batted ball goes through an infielder or by an infielder, a baserunner is not called out if they end up getting hit by the ball and there is not another fielder who had the chance to make a play on the ball.
If a baserunner were to get hit by a ball after an infielder misses the ball, the ball is still in play. The defense will play the ball as it is and the offense can advance bases at their own will. The play would be similar to how the defense plays a ball that bounces off of a wall.
The video below is a great example of this play happening during an MLB game. The shortstop made a play on the ball, missed it, and the ball ended up hitting the runner. The runner was not out because the infielder made a play on the ball and there was not another infielder who was in a position to make a play.
Fair Ball is Deflected off of an Infielder and Hits the Baserunner
Another scenario in which a runner would not be called out when a batted ball hits them is after any fielder (pitcher included) first makes contact with the ball and the ball deflects into the runner.
When a baserunner gets hit by a batted ball because an infielder deflected the baseball, the baserunner is not out and the ball is still in play. The defense needs to field the ball to make a play and the offense is allowed to advance bases at their own will.
The video below is a great example of an infielder making a play on a ball, but deflecting it and the ball hits the runner.
Baserunner is Not Out When Hit by a Batted Ball While Standing in Foul Territory
In baseball, all baserunners are taught to stay in foul territory when leading off on third base. This is because there is always a slim possibility of getting hit by a batted ball and staying in foul territory is a way to make sure you’re not hurting the team by accidentally getting out.
If a baserunner gets hit by a batted ball while they are standing in foul territory, the play is ruled a foul ball. The runner stays at third base and the batter will get another chance to hit.
I’ve also had a coach tell me that if you’re going to get hit by a batted ball, you might as well make sure you’re safe. And the best way to make sure you’re safe when a batted ball comes your way is to take your lead in foul territory.
Runner is Safe After Being Hit by a Batted Ball While Standing on Base During an Infield Fly
Although most fans of baseball have never seen a scenario where a batted ball hits a runner during an infield fly, the official MLB Rulebook outlines this scenario in Rule 5.09(b)(7).
When a runner is hit by a batted ball while they are standing on their base during an infield fly, the runner is not out. The batter will be out because of the infield fly rule, but the runner is not out.
I was not able to find any examples of this type of play happening so my gut is telling me that this type of play is extremely rare in baseball.
When Two Baserunners Get Hit by a Batted Ball, the Second Runner is Safe
Another play that is rare, but still outlined in the official MLB Rulebook, is what happens when the same batted ball hits two runners. This scenario is outlined as a comment to Rule 5.09(b)(7).
When a batted ball is fair and it hits two runners, only the first runner is out. After the first runner is hit with a batted ball, the play is ruled dead and all runners must go back to the base they were standing on prior to the play.
Similar to the scenario above, I was also not able to find any examples of this type of play happening. So my guess is that the scenario where two runners get hit by the same batted ball is extremely rare. And even though it’s extremely rare, it’s still a scenario that is outlined in the MLB Rulebook.