Play: There are 2 outs in the top of the 7th with the tying run on 2nd and a 2-2 count on the batter. The pitcher throws a fastball that hits the dirt requiring the catcher to block the pitch and the umpire calls strike 3 on the pitch. Their catcher jumped up and tug the batter so nothing went further. Since the pitch was called a strike and wasn’t on a swing nor was it a typical dropped third strike that popped out of the catcher’s mitt, could my batter have run and been awarded 1st if he made it safely?
Ruling: This play situation falls under the broad category of game management. Umpires who receive competent training operate under the maxim to do what it takes in order to get the call right.
In the case you cite, the home plate umpire errs in calling the pitch a strike. Because it counts as strike three, the batter may try to run to 1st base before being tagged out by the catcher or other infielder, even though 1st base is occupied, because two are out.
A strict application of the rules results in the third out being recorded when the catcher tags the batter and, hence, the end of the inning. At the completion of live ball action in this play, either the home plate umpire or the base umpire(s) should call ‘time’ and discuss what they saw – and, in the case of the home plate umpire, what they did not see. Again the essential point here is to get the call right.
More than likely, the base umpire(s)saw that the call of strike three was made erroneously, and consequently, the count on the batter should be corrected, and the batter be returned to the batter’s box to complete his/her time at bat.
Sources: MLB 2.00, 6.09(b), 9.01(c); NFHS 7.2.1(a), 7.4.1(b); 10.1.4, 10.2.2