A double steal is a strategy in which two base runners attempt a stolen base on the same play.
There are a number of variations on the strategy:
- The straight double steal is performed with runners on first and second base: both runners break for the next base with the pitch. The catcher then has to choose whether to throw to second or third base.
- More complex is the delayed double steal. It is usually attempted with runners on first and third. The runner on first breaks with the pitch in order to draw a throw; the runner on third then breaks for home as soon as the catcher commits to throwing to second base. To increase the chance of the run scoring, the runner can stop short of the second base bag, forcing the infielder to chase him down to tag him, and reducing the chances of a quick throw back to the plate to nail the second runner.
- A double steal can also refer to one player stealing two bases on one pitch. This is extremely rare but can be pulled off. This usually happens when a runner on first steals second, but a defensive shift leaves third base uncovered and the runner keeps running for third. Johnny Damon pulled off this feat in Game 4 of the 2009 World Series. Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds had been the last to do it in a game against the Washington Nationals on August 2, 2007.
Double steals have become fairly rare with the relative decline of stolen bases since the beginning of the 1990s. Buck Rodgers was one of the last managers to use the double steal on a regular basis when he was managing the Montreal Expos in the 1980s. Back in the early decades of the 20th Century, there was also such a beast as a triple steal attempt, but this is almost unheard of these days.