What is a Pickle in Baseball? Everything You Should Know!

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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what is a pickle in baseball

“Pickle” is slang typically used to describe a phenomenon that commonly happens during a match. The term pickle is also used as a run-down synonym.

Now, what is a pickle in baseball?

A pickle is termed a “rundown,” where a baserunner is trapped between two bases as the defenders are ready to throw the ball on either side of these bases.

Rundown Baseball Definition

run-down synonym.

If a base runner gets caught between two bases, typically when attempting to advance from one base to the next, it is formally called “rundown.” In slang terms, though, the situation can also be known as a “pickle” or “hotbox.

When a baserunner is in this situation, he cannot go forward or back, as he’s likely to meet defensive stops trying to tag him out. The infielders will then continuously attempt to toss the ball back and forth between two or more fielders. This cycle continues until any of these scenarios happen:

  • The base runner gets past the tags and lands on a base
  • The baserunner gets tagged out by the fielders
  • The ball gets thrown away

Why is It Called Pickle?

The history of the term “pickle” can be traced back to its origin phase, “in a pickle,” which means to be in a tough situation. It was then termed a “pickle” as years went by.

Situations That Lead to a Pickle


There are several reasons why situations escalate to a pickle during a match. Some reasons include over-aggressive baserunning, miscommunication on the defense pattern, double-play attempts, failed bunt attempts, and trick plays.

Playing the pickle game: How to execute a pickle?

Coordination between fielders makes pickles in a game more cohesive. Here’s how to execute a pickle drill:

  • Upon receiving the ball, immediately switch it to your pitching hand—this makes tagging and throwing quick.
  • Decide which direction to toss the ball—it’s important that infielders stay on the same side as the baserunners, as this gives a clear line on where to throw the ball.
  • Run toward the target’s direction—this makes the baserunner commit rashly toward a base where he can be tagged.
  • Track your throw—after the infielder has thrown the ball to his co-fielder, he should track the ball just in case it takes more than 2 throws to tag the runner.
  • Get off the baseline—after making your throw, get off the baseline immediately to keep a safe distance from the runner.
  • Secure your hold on the ball—while tagging the runner, make sure your hold is steady enough so it does not slip off your throwing hand.

Here is a baseball rundown diagram:


Further, the runners’ role in rundown drills is to try to escape being tagged out by the infielders, while the infielders’ job is to work amongst themselves to tag out the runner.

How to Get Out of a Pickle in Baseball?


It takes quick reflexes and agility to escape a rundown in baseball. To successfully pull this off, a baserunner must time their movements carefully, evade fielders that try to tag them out, always look for an opening toward the next base, and take seriously the rundown rules for successful execution.

If possible, try to drag it out so that the fielders have a higher risk of making a bad throw. In addition, the runner should get in the way of their throwing path to obstruct the ball or their vision.

Memorable Pickles in MLB Games

For the spectators, pickle is entertaining to watch. Here are some memorable pickles between baseball teams:

1. Josh Harrison of the New York Mets

Known as “the king of the pickle,” Josh Harrison was caught in a pickle between 2nd and 3rd bases in a match against the New York Mets in 2014. However, he has multiple tactics for evading the infielders, such as falling to the ground.

Thanks to his elusive rundown, his team—Pittsburgh Pirates—managed to score a 3-2 win against the New York Mets.

2. White Sox Trio

Sometimes, the presence of three baserunners caught up in a pickle helps them prevail in this situation. Case in point, a Triple Rundown was executed by White Sox players in a 2018 game against the Minnesota Twins.

In this Triple Rundown, one runner was in a pickle between 1st and 2nd bases, one was in between 2nd and 3rd bases, and another was in between 3rd and home bases. With all three escaping the pickle, the team eventually won 8-5.

Evolution of Pickle Play

Pickle plays started out as a defensive strategy in the early days of baseball. Since then, it has evolved immensely as modern professional teams come up with strategies to avoid being caught in a rundown or to execute one to trap the opponent’s runner.

However, it remains to be in the arsenal of teams during urgent situations.

Tips for players to improve their pickle skills

Pickle tips for fielders and baserunners

As infielders, it’s important to develop these traits:

  • Good communication with their teammates
  • Quick footwork
  • Know how to deceive baserunners
  • Reaction time while tagging

As baserunners, it’s important to develop:

  • Calmness while tagging
  • Quick reactions and anticipation during tagging
  • Knowing when to ask for help from teammates
  • Deceptive stances

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


Common mistakes

Ways to avoid them

Infielders not running fast enough toward the runner

When the pickle has just been set up, infielders should run quickly toward the runner for tagging.

Throwing of the ball gets delayed

If there’s a cue to throw the ball, the ball must be released immediately from the infielder’s hold.

Fielders on opposite sides of the runner

Fielders should always stay on the same side for a clear sight of where to throw the ball.

When the receiving player catches the ball and is not yet prepared to go off for the opponent

Always anticipate what happens next and develop body agility.

Strategies to Play in a Pickle


The basic strategy in executing a pickle is to get the baserunner to commit an error by either breaking for the next base too soon or pausing too long, which will let the fielders tag them out.

Fielders could also fake throws to confuse the baserunner and eventually make mistakes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the catcher during a pickle situation?

The catcher is the one to initiate a pickle play and is also often in charge of communicating cues that everyone’s in the position for a rundown.

What sport uses the term “pickle”?

The sport that uses the term “pickle” is baseball, which is also known as a “rundown” or a “hotbox”.

There’s also a sport called “pickleball,” which involves 2 or 4 people using paddles to hit a perforated empty plastic ball over the net. Upon first glance, pickleball may resemble tennis.


Being caught in a pickle has got to be one of the most difficult situations that a baseball player gets into.

When a base runner is caught in this situation, he needs to be alert and calculative of his movements. Infielders, on the other hand, need to communicate well amongst themselves to carry out pickles successfully.

For the rundown to come out as successful, a drill should be integrated into the team’s defensive strategy so they’re ready at all times. We hope that this article about “what is a pickle in baseball?” helped you with that!

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