|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2008)|
In baseball, a force is a situation when a baserunner is compelled (or forced) to vacate his time-of-pitch base—and thus try to advance to the next base—because the batter became a runner. A runner at first base is always forced to attempt to advance to second base when the batter becomes a runner. Runners at second or third base are forced only when all bases preceding their time-of-pitch base are occupied by other baserunners and the batter becomes a runner.
A forced runner's force base is the next base beyond his time-of-pitch base. Any attempt by fielders to put a forced runner out is called a force play. A forced runner is out (called a force out) when a fielder with the ball touches the runner's force base before the runner reaches that base. A forced runner also may be tagged out in the usual fashion as well; such a tag is still considered a force play if the tag is made before the runner reaches his force base. Any play on the batter-runner before he reaches first base is the same as a force play, though the rules do not include this in the definition of a force play.
A force on a runner is "removed" when the batter or a following runner is put out. This most often happens on fly outs—on such, the batter-runner is out, and the other runner(s) must return to their time-of-pitch base, known as tagging up.
Force outs may also be called on neighborhood plays, though this tradition goes against the rules.
Scoring on force outs
No run can be scored during the same continuous playing action as a force out for the third out, even if a runner reaches home plate before the third out is recorded. As a result, on a batted ball with two outs, fielders will nearly always ignore a runner trying to score, attempting instead to force out the batter or another runner.
An appeal play may also be a force play; for example, with runners on first and third bases and two out, the batter gets a hit but the runner from first misses second base on the way to third. After a proper appeal, this runner will be called out. This is a force out because the runner was out for failing to touch a base to which he was forced; this force out is the third out and thus the run does not score. However, most appeals are not force plays, because appeals usually do not involve a forced runner.
It is not a force out when a runner is put out while trying to tag up after a caught fly ball. Because this out is similar to a true force out, in that the runner can be put out by a fielder possessing the ball at the base that the runner needs to reach, there is a widespread misconception that this out is a force out. But it is not, which means the run would count if it scored before the third out is made on a runner trying to tag up.