On August 15, 2020, Max Muncy hit the first leadoff sacrifice fly in MLB history due to the new ghost runner rule that was implemented by the league and Players Association (MLBPA) during the pandemic-shortened season to reduce health risks.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels tied at five after nine innings, Chris Taylor started the top of the 10th on second base as the automatic runner. That was a byproduct of Taylor making the final out in the ninth inning.
With Muncy leading off the 10th for the Dodgers, Taylor immediately stole third base to get within 90 feet of scoring the go-ahead run. Muncy then hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in right field that allowed Taylor to jog home.
That was all the run support Kenley Jansen needed as he retired all three batters faced in the bottom of the 10th to secure a 6-5 win for the Dodgers at Angel Stadium.
It marked the Dodgers’ fourth of what would be seven consecutive wins from August 12-18, 2020. L.A. finished with an MLB-best 43-17 record during the abbreviated season and went on to win their first World Series championship since 1988.
MLB competition committee voted to make ghost runner rule permanent
While the extra runner rule did not carry into the playoffs in 2020, it returned for the regular season in 2021 and 2022. Prior to the 2023 campaign, the joint competition committee voted to make the ghost runner rule a permanent addition to the league.
The designated runner rule was first meant to have some health benefit, but it has also been part of various measures that reduced length of games. That’s been a focal point for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and remains at the core of the league seeking further rule changes in the years ahead.
Although permanent, postseason games still do not include a designated runner for extra innings.
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