Ordinarily, a baseball game consists of nine regulation innings (in softball and high school baseball games there are typically seven innings; in Little League Baseball, six), each of which is divided into halves: the visiting team bats first, after which the home team takes its turn at bat. However, if the score remains tied at the end of the regulation number of complete innings, the rules provide that "play shall continue until (1) the visiting team has scored more total runs than the home team at the end of a completed inning; or (2) the home team scores the winning run in an uncompleted inning." (Since the home team bats second, condition (2) does not allow the visiting team to score more runs before the end of the inning).
The rules of the game, including the batting order, availability of substitute players and pitchers, etc., remain intact in extra innings. Managers must display caution to avoid exhausting all their substitute players during regular innings, in case the game reaches extensive extra innings. The rules call for a forfeiture if a team is unable to field a full team of nine players.
In Major League Baseball, home teams won about 52% of extra-inning games from 1957 to 2007. During this same time period, home teams have won about 54% of all baseball games. So while the home team has some advantage in extra-inning games, this advantage is less noticeable than the initial home-field advantage. Home teams tend to have the greatest advantage in run-scoring during the first 3 innings.
For the visiting team to win, it must score as many runs as possible in the first (or "top") half of the inning and then prevent the home team from tying or taking the lead in the second (or "bottom") half. Because it bats in the bottom half of an inning, a home team wins the game by taking the lead at any point in the final inning. Normally in such a situation, the moment the winning run scores for whatever reason (base hit, sacrifice, wild pitch), the game immediately ends and no other runs are allowed. The term for winning in this scenario is a "walk-off" win (as everyone can walk off the field as soon as the winning run is scored). The exception is if the winning hit is a walk-off home run; all runners on base and the batter must circle the bases on a home run, provided that they round them all correctly, so all their runs count for the final score. Each extra inning simply repeats this scenario. This is in contrast to the analogous penalty shootout used in ice hockey or Association Football, where shootout points are counted separately and only one point is awarded to the winner (hockey), or the game is recorded as a draw and the team winning the shootout is noted separately (association football); however, the same procedure of counting runs as if they were scored in regulation is like the overtime procedures in American/Canadian football and basketball.
Additionally, NPB games have a total time limit of three and a half hours during the regular season before being counted as a tie. It is also 12 in postseason play, and the last game is completely replayed if drawn, leading to seven-game series that can go on for eight games, something that has happened only once (in the 1986 Japan Series). There are no limits on the number of innings in the eighth game of the Japan Series.
The KBO does not play extra innings in the first game of a double-header. Tie games are discarded when calculating winning percentages since 2002, except for 2008 when it was counted as a loss in the league's standings. Before 2002, they counted as half a win.
For CPBL postseason games, the 12-inning limit does not apply and the games will continue until a winner is decided. The longest game to be played took place during 2009 Taiwan Series, where in Game 6 the Brother Elephants defeated Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions 5 to 4 after 17 innings.
In the 11th inning, the manager selects anywhere in the batting order to start the inning, regardless of the last player put out. The batter immediately preceding this newly designated leadoff man becomes a runner on first base, and the next preceding batter is placed on second base. In subsequent innings, the batting order continues as normal, but the two players preceding the player scheduled to lead off (or substitutes for those players) the inning start on second and first.
Since 2009, a modified form of the rule has been used for the World Baseball Classic. Unlike the standard rule, the batting order may not start from a different place. Through the 2013 edition, the first inning in which teams started with runners on first and second was the 13th. The rule was not used in either the 2009 or 2013 editions because no game lasted more than 11 innings. For the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the rule was modified to use extra runners for the first time in the 11th inning, and it would see its first use in a second-round game between Japan and the Netherlands at the Tokyo Dome. Japan won that game thanks to a sacrifice bunt and a 2-run hit.
Other methods include the following:
- Putting runners on second and third (those who made the last two outs of the past inning) and an 0-2 count on the batter with no outs.
- Having bases loaded (runners being the last three outs of the past inning), with a 1-1 count on the batter and no outs.
- Sudden-death extra innings (the next team to score wins the game; this can result in a walk-off home run for the visiting team).
Since the 2020 season, MLB began experimenting this rule: whoever was last put out is the designated pinch runner on 2nd base, to start each half-inning. This scenario starts in the 10th inning (or in doubleheader games, the 8th per game).
In international softball, a special extra innings rule starts immediately after regulation. Each team begins their half of the inning with a runner on second base (the last player to be put out). This increases the odds that teams will score and ensures a faster resolution. There is a drawback, though, in that the home team has a major advantage in batting second. Should the visiting team fail to score, all the home team must do to win is, for example, get a successful bunt and sacrifice fly to score the winning run. This rule is also used in certain NCAA college conferences, usually applied after one or two extra innings where the "international tiebreaker" is not used.
MLB spring training
During spring training in Major League Baseball, games are played for a maximum of ten innings; if the game is tied after ten innings, the tie stands. There are multiple reasons for this brevity. Players are getting back into shape after the off-season, so shorter games help reduce injuries from overexertion. During spring training, teams often travel on a daily basis, so they need time to be able to travel to their next game. Lastly, there are no prizes or penalties associated with a team's preseason record, so there is no need for a definitive winner in each game.
There are nine regulation innings in a professional baseball game.
Minor League Baseball
The record for the most innings ever played in a single professional game is 33 which occurred in 1981 in a Minor League Baseball game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, Triple-A affiliates of the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, respectively. Each team had a future Hall of Famer on its roster: Wade Boggs for Pawtucket and Cal Ripken Jr. for Rochester.
Major League Baseball
The longest game by innings in Major League Baseball was a 1–1 tie in the National League between the Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins in 26 innings, at Braves Field in Boston on May 1, 1920. It had become too dark to see the ball (fields did not have lights yet and the sun was setting), and the game was considered a draw. Played rapidly by modern standards, those 26 innings were completed in 3 hours and 50 minutes. As was the custom, the first pitch was thrown at 3:00 p.m.; home plate umpire Barry McCormick called the game as lights began appearing in the windows of buildings across the Charles River, just before 7:00 p.m.
The longest American League game, and tied for the longest major league game by innings which ended with one team winning, was a 7–6 victory by the Chicago White Sox over the Milwaukee Brewers in 25 innings, at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1984. The game began at 7:30 p.m. on May 8, 1984, and after scoring early runs both teams scored twice in the 8th inning; but the game was suspended after 17 innings with the score tied 3–3 due to a league curfew rule prohibiting an inning from beginning after 12:59 a.m. The game was continued the following evening, May 9, 1984, and both teams scored three times in the 21st inning to make the score 6–6; finally, in the bottom of the 25th, the White Sox' Harold Baines hit a walk-off home run to end the contest. Tom Seaver was the winning pitcher in relief. A regularly scheduled game followed, meaning both nights saw 17 innings played; Seaver also started, and won, the second game 5–4. The official time of the entire 25-inning game was 8 hours, 6 minutes, also a major league record.
On September 11, 1974, the St. Louis Cardinals won a marathon night game against the New York Mets, after 7 hours 4 minutes, and 25 innings; this, the longest National League contest, is also tied for the longest game played to a decision in major league history. Two Mets errors led to the Cardinals' winning run, starting with an errant pickoff throw that allowed Bake McBride to scamper all the way around from first. St. Louis won, 4–3. The Mets went to the plate 103 times, a record in a major league game; the Cards were not far behind with 99 plate appearances. All told, a record 175 official at-bats were recorded, with a major-league record 45 runners stranded. Only a thousand fans were still at Shea Stadium when the game ended at 3:13 a.m. on September 12. Unlike the American League, the National League had no curfew. This was the longest game played to a decision without a suspension.
On April 15, 1968, the Houston Astros defeated the Mets 1–0 in a 24-inning game at the Houston Astrodome. The 6-hour, 6-minute contest, which ended with the Astros' Bob Aspromonte hitting a grounder through the legs of Mets shortstop Al Weis in the bottom of the 24th, remains the longest shutout game in major league history. It also had the most scoreless innings (23) in a major-league game.
The longest American League game to end in a tie was a 24-inning contest between the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics on July 21, 1945. The teams were tied 1–1 when the game was called due to darkness at Shibe Park; the Tigers' Les Mueller had pitched a record 192⁄3 innings. giving up one run, before being taken out in the 20th inning.
The longest game to end in a scoreless tie was a National League contest between the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers on September 11, 1946. The teams went 19 innings before darkness fell at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, forcing the game to be called on account of darkness. In the American League, the longest 0–0 game was played between the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers on July 16, 1909. The game was called after 18 innings due to darkness at Bennett Park in Detroit. The longest scoreless period within a completed game came in the April 15, 1968 game between the Astros and Mets which remained scoreless after 23 innings.
The Washington Senators became the first team in Major League history to play multiple games of at least 20 innings in a season when they defeated the Minnesota Twins 9–7 in 20 innings on August 9, 1967, after winning a 22-inning game over the Chicago White Sox on June 12 of that year. This feat would later be accomplished by the 1971 Oakland Athletics who had games of 21 and 20 innings and the 1989 Los Angeles Dodgers who played two 22-inning contests.
The longest doubleheader in Major League history was on May 31, 1964. The San Francisco Giants beat the New York Mets 5–3 in nine innings in the day's first game at Shea Stadium, and then won the nightcap 8–6 after 23 innings. The two games lasted a combined nine hours, 52 minutes. The Mets' Ed Kranepool played in all 32 innings of the two games; Kranepool had been called up to the team that day after having played in both games of a doubleheader the day before for their Triple-A club in Buffalo.
On June 8, 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Texas Rangers 4–3 in 18 innings while the Miami Marlins beat the New York Mets 2–1 in 20 innings. This was the second time in Major League history that two games of 18 innings or more were played on same day; the first was August 15, 2006.
On August 10, 2014, at 12:39 a.m. the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim defeated the Boston Red Sox 5–4 in 19 innings in a game that had started at 6 p.m. the night before. Albert Pujols' walk-off homer was quickly reviewed, per Boston's request, but the call was confirmed. That same day the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Detroit Tigers 6–5 in a 19-inning game of their own, Both teams used all their available bench reserves as well as their entire available bullpen, Toronto even used starting pitcher Marcus Stroman as a pinch runner at one point. Tigers starter Rick Porcello would be credited with the loss after coming into the game in the 18th inning. Toronto reliever Chad Jenkins would get the win after pitching 6 innings of relief (an unusually long outing for a reliever) with José Bautista hitting a walk-off single to score Munenori Kawasaki to win the game. Toronto starter R.A. Dickey had begun warming up in the bullpen in the top of the 19th and may have come on in relief had the game gone to 20 innings.
On April 11, 2015, the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees 6–5 in 19 innings at Yankee Stadium. The game began at 7:05 p.m. on April 10, and ended at 2:13 a.m., after 6 hours and 49 minutes of play. The length of the game prompted a Twitter joke during the game by Yankees' media personality Mark Feinsand at 12:10 a.m. on the 11th regarding Mark Teixeira's birthday: Mark Teixeira was 34 when this game began. He's now 35. #TrueStory.
In 2020, MLB added a temporary rule that extra innings begin with a runner on second base. On July 24, 2020, The Oakland Athletics defeated the Los Angeles Angels 7–3 in the first extra-inning game under this rule. In the top of the 10th inning, Shohei Ohtani of the Angels was placed on second base, and was thrown out in a rundown. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Marcus Semien was placed on second base, and would score on a walk-off grand slam. This rule is also used in doubleheader games that end tied after seven innings.
Notable postseason extra-inning games
In October 1999 the Grand Single game 5 of the 1999 NLCS was won when, with the Bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th inning, Robin Ventura of the New York Mets, who had hit 2 Grand Slams in one game earlier in the year in the same game, hit what seemed to be another when the ball went over the wall. His fellow Mets teammates would not let him get even to second base. So according to the rules only one run was allowed to score making it a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
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The longest postseason game by innings in MLB history is 18 innings, which has happened three times. The first 18-inning contest was played between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros on October 9, 2005. In Game 4 of a National League Division Series in Houston, the Braves (who were trailing the series 2–1 and facing elimination) took a 6–1 lead into the 8th inning. A grand slam by Lance Berkman in the bottom of the 8th brought the score to 6–5, and with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Brad Ausmus homered to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The score remained deadlocked at 6–6 until the 18th, when the Astros' Chris Burke (who entered the game in the 9th inning as a pinch runner) hit a walk-off home run to left to win it, sending Houston to the NLCS. Roger Clemens, who was brought in to pinch-hit in the 15th and pitched the last three innings in relief, was credited as the winning pitcher in the 5-hour, 50-minute contest. Adam LaRoche and Tim Hudson played in both of the first two 18-inning games. This one as Atlanta Braves and the second one as opposing sides of one another with Hudson pitching in both games as the visiting team's starting pitcher. It is the longest winner in a potential clinching game in baseball history.
The second 18-inning game was Game 2 of the 2014 National League Division Series, with the visiting San Francisco Giants winning 2–1 over the Washington Nationals. The game ended just after midnight on October 5, 2014 and lasted 6 hours 23 minutes. The Nationals had been leading 1–0 with two out in the ninth inning, with starter Jordan Zimmermann one out away from a complete-game shutout. Following a decision by manager Matt Williams to remove Zimmermann with two out after he walked Joe Panik, Washington closer Drew Storen gave up a single to Giants catcher Buster Posey and an RBI double to Pablo Sandoval, scoring Panik to tie the game 1–1. Posey was thrown out at the plate trying to score the second San Francisco run on Sandoval's double. After Sergio Romo retired the Nationals in order in the bottom half, the game went into extra innings. There was no further scoring until Giants first baseman Brandon Belt led off the top of the 18th inning with a home run. Hunter Strickland, a September call-up, recorded the save. Of the three 18 innings games this is the only one to go the full 18 innings.
The third and most recent 18-inning game was Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. It was played on October 26, 2018, between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers took a 1–0 lead in the 3rd inning when Joc Pederson homered off of Boston starter Rick Porcello. The Red Sox tied the game in the top of the 8th when Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a solo home run off of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The game remained deadlocked at 1 until the 13th inning when Brock Holt scored on a throwing error by Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander. The Dodgers subsequently tied it again at 2 in the bottom of the inning, when Max Muncy scored on a throwing error by Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler (who had entered the game in the 10th inning as a pinch runner). The score remained 2–2 until the bottom of the 18th, when Muncy (who had missed a walk-off home run in the 15th inning by mere inches) hit a walk-off solo home run off of Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (who was in his 7th inning of relief). The winning pitcher for the Dodgers was Alex Wood. With a duration of 7 hours and 20 minutes, this was also the longest postseason game by time in MLB history.
The 1986 National League Championship Series was notable for its two climactic extra-inning games. After the Houston Astros and the New York Mets split the first four games of the series, the Mets won Game 5 in 12 innings and Game 6 in 16 innings to claim the pennant.
The 1986 American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the California Angels featured a dramatic game where the Angels were leading 3 games to 1 and leading 5–4 in game 5, one strike away from the first pennant in franchise history, only for Red Sox's Dave Henderson hit a two-run home run off Angels closer Donnie Moore in the top of the ninth inning to give the Red Sox the lead. The Angels tied it in the bottom half but in the top of the 11th, Henderson's sacrifice fly off Moore proved to be the winning margin and the Angels lost the game. The series returned to Boston and the Angels were outscored a combined 18–5 in games 6 and 7 to lose the pennant.
Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox went into extra innings as well. The Red Sox scored 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 5–3 lead and then got two quick outs with no one on base in the bottom of the 10th. With the Red Sox one out away from their first world championship in 68 years, reliever Calvin Schiraldi gave up three straight singles to cut the lead to one run with runners on first and third. Red Sox manager John McNamara replaced Schiraldi with Bob Stanley, who then threw a two-strike wild pitch to Mookie Wilson to allow the tying run to score and move the other runner to second base. The wild pitch was particularly notable in that it completely turned the tables on the Red Sox from what they had done while facing the Angels weeks earlier, as they themselves had now blown a situation in which they were one strike away from winning the series. Wilson subsequently hit a ground ball to first base that rolled through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner to allow the winning run to score from second base, sending the Series to a Game 7 where the Mets completed the upset. Had Buckner not committed this error, the game would have either remained tied with runners on first and third for the next batter (if Wilson was safe) or would have gone to an 11th inning (if Wilson had been out).
The 1980 National League Championship Series, played between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies, had four of its five games go to extra innings. The Astros won Games 2 and 3 in 10 and 11 innings respectively, while the Phillies took Games 4 and 5 in 10 innings each.
Game 6 of the 2011 World Series invokes echoes of 1986. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning their first World Series when David Freese hit a two-run triple to tie the game 7–7 and send the game to extra innings. In the 10th, Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run to give the Rangers a 9–7 lead, but the Cardinals responded with two runs to tie the game again at 9. The game ended in the 11th inning when Freese led off with a walk-off solo home run. Just like the Mets did in 1986, the Cardinals went on to win Game 7 and the championship.
The 2012 American League Division Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees had back-to-back extra-inning games, going 12 and 13 innings respectively. The Yankees won Game 3 on a walk-off home run by Raúl Ibañez and the Orioles returned the favor the next night by winning Game 4.
In the 1995 American League Division Series, the Seattle Mariners and Yankees battled in Game 2 in 15 innings. The Yankees won the game on a two-run walk-off home run by Jim Leyritz, setting the record for longest game in MLB postseason history by time until 2005. In Game 5, the Mariners won the game and the series in 11 innings on Edgar Martínez's famous double that scored Ken Griffey Jr. Until 2011, this was the only LDS game 5 in either league to go into extra innings.
The longest "winner take all" game (defined as the final game of a postseason series, in which the winning team clinches the title or advances to the next round while the loser is eliminated from the postseason) in MLB postseason history is the 2018 National League Wild-Card Game, won by the Colorado Rockies over the Chicago Cubs 2–1 in 13 innings.
The longest major league All-Star Game by time was played on July 15, 2008 at Yankee Stadium, with the American League winning 4–3 in 15 innings after four hours, 50 minutes. Michael Young hit the walk-off sacrifice fly to win it. This was the first time in All-Star game history that the AL won an All-Star Game in extra innings. The previous nine times The National League went 8–0–1 in extra-inning games.
The All-Star Game of July 11, 1967 at Anaheim Stadium also lasted 15 innings, but was considerably shorter in terms of elapsed time. The All-Star Game of July 9, 2002 at Miller Park was controversially declared a 7–7 tie after 11 innings, when both teams ran out of available pitchers.
- Most extra innings played in a World Series game: 9 (2018, game 3). Further, game 3 was the longest World Series game played in terms of elapsed time.
- Most extra innings played over the course of a World Series: 9 (2018). This record, distinct from the above, was also set by the large number of extra innings in 2018's game 3 alone, eclipsing the previous record 8 extra innings logged in games 1 and 5 of the 2015 Series.
- Most innings played over the course of a World Series: 75 (1912). 1912 was one of seven historically unusual Series: four (1903, 1919, 1920, 1921) were best-of-nine contests, and three (1907, 1912, 1922) were best-of-seven contests which each had one tie game apiece. In the 1912 Series, game 2 concluded as an 11-inning tie and the Series-deciding game 8 went for 10 innings, padding the Series' total inning count to 75.
- Most innings played over the course of a standard World Series: 69 (1924, 1991). "Standard" denotes best-of-seven Series which had no tie games, excluding the seven above Series. 1924's games 1 and 7 each went for 12 innings, while 1991's games 3, 6 and 7 went for 12, 11 and 10 innings, respectively.
- Most games running to extra innings, played over the course of a World Series: 3 (1991). No other Series has had more than two games running to extra innings.
Additionally, World Series-deciding games have gone to extra innings 10 times: 1912's game 8, 1924's game 7, 1933's game 5, 1939's game 4, 1991's game 7, 1992's game 6, 1997's game 7, 2012's game 4, 2015's game 5, and 2016's game 7 all went past 9 innings before a champion was determined.
On November 6, 2010, the record for longest Japan Series game was set in Game 6. The Chiba Lotte Marines and the Chunichi Dragons played 15 innings totaling 5 hours and 43 minutes. The game ended a 2–2 tie leading to a Game 7 in which the Marines won the game and the championship. Since 2018, the limit is 12 innings for the first 7 games, but no limits thereafter.
The longest game in Taiwan Series's history took place in Game 6 on October 24, 2009. The Brother Elephants defeated the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions 5 to 4 and tied the series 3–3 after 17 innings that totals 6 hours 14 minutes. The Lions eventually took the title after defeating the Elephants 5 to 2 in Game 7.
The longest college baseball game was played between Texas and Boston College on May 30, 2009, in a regional NCAA Division I Baseball Championship tournament game at Austin, Texas. Texas won the game, 3–2, in 25 innings as the visiting team under NCAA tournament rules on home-team declaration during a tournament. The game lasted seven hours and three minutes. Three years later, another NCAA tournament game passed the 20-inning mark when Kent State defeated Kentucky, 7–6, in 21 innings in an opening round game at the Gary Regional in Gary, Indiana.
The 1943 Boston Red Sox played an MLB record 31 extra inning games, winning 15 and losing 14, with 2 games tied. They played 73 extra innings that season, equivalent to playing an additional eight nine-inning games. The fewest extra inning games played in a season (dating back to at least 1908) is one, by the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals, who played only 58 games in a season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2016 Los Angeles Angels played four extra inning games, the fewest in a 162-game season, and lost all four. The record for most extra inning victories in a season is held by the 1959 Pittsburgh Pirates, who won 19 of their 21 extra inning games.
The convention of the visiting team batting first means that there is no limit to the possible margin of victory for the visitors in extra innings. The MLB record is held by the 1983 Texas Rangers, who put up 12 unanswered runs in the top of the 15th inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics by a score of 16–4 on July 3. Conversely, for the home team who bats second, the highest possible margin of victory is four.
In other sports
Limited overs cricket has Super Overs if the teams are tied after playing the regulation number of innings (usually one), which are akin to extra innings with a maximum of 6 legal pitches and 2 outs in each half-inning.
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