4.09 HOW A TEAM SCORES.
(a) One run shall be scored each time a runner legally advances to and touches first, second, third and home base before three men are put out to end the inning. EXCEPTION: A run is not scored if the runner advances to home base during a play in which the third out is made (1) by the batter-runner before he touches first base; (2) by any runner being forced out; or (3) by a preceding runner who is declared out because he failed to touch one of the bases.
See, guys. It's not that hard.
I'm trying to imagine the discussion in the dugout after the play, in which Nick Punto -- who trotted toward home when he should have been sprinting -- claimed: "A lot of us didn't even know the rule." I'm not being very successful. Anyone else want to give it a try?
Huh? Heady Little Leaguers grow up trying to get caught in a rundown between first and second so the runner on third can make a break for it and (1) draw a bad throw; (2) score before the rundown ends. Heck, I even did it once during a softball tournament in Grand Forks many year ago. The result was (1) and broke a 15-15 tie, if I remember correctly.
Even if they've blocked out their childhood memories, teams several times a year have situations in which an umpire has to judge whether a runner has crossed home plate before the third out is made on the bases -- in something other than (1) the batter-runner being out at first; (2) a force play.
A few games each year are destined to blow up unexpectedly. Focusing exclusively on that play diminishes the role of other poor performances -- (1) Punto's errors on consecutive balls at shortstop; (2) Matt Tolbert playing second base like some feared Michael Cuddyer would on that night in Seattle; (3) Cuddyer playing right field like a visitor on Jose Guillen's triple while Kansas City's David DeJesus handled two balls off the wall like a pro. (Note: If DeJesus had Cuddyer'd either of those balls, Joe Mauer would have scored in the first and Punto would have scored in the third, which would have eliminated the Punto-Denard Span drama of base-running ineptitude that followed.) (4) The home runs that Scott Baker gave up to consecutive batters while I was in the kitchen.
Still, let me leave baseball players everywhere with one piece of advice:
If you read only one book this year, make it the rulebook.