Up to two fouls in baseball count as strikes during a plate appearance, according to the foul strike rule. That rule, enacted in the early days of the 20th century, says that a batter is charged with a strike for every foul ball he hits until he accumulates two strikes for the entire at-bat. So the exact number of fouls that count as strikes varies from at-bat to at-bat, and there is an exception to the rule.

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Up to Two Strikes

When a hitter is at the plate with fewer than two strikes, any foul ball that is not caught by the opposing team for an out results in a strike agains the batter. So, for any of the following ball-strike counts, a non-out foul ball on the subsequent pitch will result in an extra strike on the batter:

  • 0-0
  • 0-1
  • 1-0
  • 1-1
  • 2-0
  • 2-1
  • 3-0
  • 3-1

Once the batter has two strikes, such as a full count of three balls and two strikes (3-2), every subsequent uncaught foul ball leaves the count unchanged.

The Bunt Exception

The exception to the two-strike rule of foul balls is when a batter fouls off a ball with two strikes while attempting to bunt. In that case, the foul ball does indeed count as strike three, and the batter is out. So if the batter has fouled off two other pitches for strikes before committing a bunt-foul out, then he will have three total fouls charged as strikes against him.

The Other Exception

A foul tip, in which the batter makes incidental contact with a pitch but the catcher receives the ball into his glove without coming out of his crouch, is considered a strike. That’s true in all cases, including when there are already two strikes, so a batter may strike out on a foul tip. As with the bunting situation above, the batter could conceivably record three foul ball strikes if the last one is a foul tip.

Did you know? The longest at-bat in the history of Major League Baseball was recorded by Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants against Jaime Barria of the Los Angeles Angels on April 22, 2018, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. In the top of the first inning, Belt came to bat after Joe Panik led off with a single to right field. Belt stayed in the batter’s box for 21 grueling pitches, running the count to 3-2 and fouling off an amazing 16 pitches before finally lining out to left field.