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What Does it Mean To Clear the Bases in Baseball?

Any inning in baseball has the potential to have very exciting plays, especially when a player’s hit clears the bases. But those who are new to baseball or are unfamiliar with this term may not yet understand what it means to clear the bases, even though they may have seen this type of play happen multiple times. What does it mean to clear the bases?

Clearing the bases is jargon that is used when a batter gets a base hit with two or more runners on base and that hit scores all of the runners. The batter can still be on base for the play to be called a bases-clearing hit, but all runners who were on at the time of the hit were able to score.

Scott Barlow throwing a pitch to Mike Trout

A bases-clearing hit is always an exciting play because it means the batter hit the ball well and was able to bring in a few runs at the same time. As it turns out, there are a few different variations of clearing the bases in baseball. We’ll cover those different variations in the rest of this article.

Clearing the Bases Definition

Clearing the bases is a term that is used in both softball and baseball and it means the same thing across both sports. To clear the bases, a batter simply needs to get a base hit that brings in all of the runners.

Most of the time, people refer to hits as “clearing the bases” when two or more runners were on base and all of those runners scored because of the base hit. So to qualify as a play that clears the bases, runners can either be on first and second, first and third, second and third, or the bases can be loaded.

Although, the term “clearing the bases” is a high-level term that describes a hit that brings in all of the base runners. There are actually four different types of ways a batter can clear the bases and it depends on how well the batter hits the ball. Let’s discuss each type of bases-clearing hit in more detail.

1) Bases-Clearing Single

The most basic way for a hitter to hit a bases-clearing hit is to hit a single. When the hit is just right, all of the base runners can score on a single.

Probably the easiest way to get a bases-clearing single is for the batter to get a base hit while the runners are stealing, especially if the bases are loaded.

This scenario was true in the video below. Jason Giambi hit a bases-clearing single with the bases loaded. Derek Jeter was on first base and he was able to score because he was in the process of stealing second base while the pitcher was delivering the pitch.

2) Bases-Clearing Double

One of the most common ways for players to clear the bases is by hitting a double. When a player hits a double, base runners have more time to score, especially when one of the base runners is on first base.

Below is a great example of a bases-clearing double. What makes this play even more exciting is that it occurred in Game 2 of the American League Division Series (ALDS) and it also put the Orioles up by one run.

3) Bases-Clearing Triple

One of the most difficult and most rewarding ways to clear the bases in baseball is to hit a triple.

Because of how well the ball was hit, the batter gets a triple and scores all of the runners. And because the batter got a triple, that also implies all base runners were cleared from the bases.

4) Bases-Clearing Home Run

Although a home run is not normally called a bases-clearing hit, a home run is still a bases-clearing play because all base runners get a free trip around the bases. So if a batter hits a home run with two or more runners on base, they have hit a bases-clearing home run.

Normally, these types of home runs are referred to as a three-run home run or a grand slam. So, here’s a great video of Adam Duvall hitting a grand slam in Game 5 of the 2021 World Series.

What is Not Considered Clearing the Bases?

Knowing what it means to clear the bases is important, but it’s just as important to understand what isn’t clearing the bases in baseball. Let’s go over two scenarios where it wouldn’t make sense to say that someone cleared the bases.

1) Clearing the Bases With One Runner On

Whenever there is one runner on base and that run scores from a base hit, fans don’t typically count that as clearing the bases. There are many scenarios where one runner could be on base and a base hit would score them, but some of those scenarios are too easy for the base runner.

For example, it’s expected for a runner to score from third base on a base hit. When the ball gets through the infield, the runner on third base usually has ample time to score. The offense will always welcome a run, but it wouldn’t count as a bases-clearing play.

2) Bases-Clearing Sac Fly or Sac Bunt

Sometimes, a sacrifice fly or a sacrifice bunt can clear the bases, but fans will not call these scenarios a bases-clearing play. These plays are simply successful sacrifice plays that scored a run.

3) Clearing the Bases Because the Defense Committed Errors

When base runners advance because of defensive errors, fans would not count the play as a bases-clearing play if all of the base runners scored.

While it’s good to get those additional runs, a bases-clearing play is usually due to how well an offensive player hit the ball and how well the base runners ran around the bases. If base runners got to score because of an error, it has little to do with how well the offensive players performed.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.