A typical baseball game is nine innings, although that isn’t set in stone, says long time college coach Gary McClure. In the following brief Q&A, McClure wraps up a three part series on baseball rules and terminology by explaining how a winner is determined and how long a game can last until the final call.
Q: What is an inning?
Gary McClure: An inning consists of each team playing defense, in the field, and offense, at bat. There is no time limit for an inning and a standard MLB game is comprised of nine innings.
Q: How are tied games handled in professional baseball?
Gary McClure: Ties are a rare occurrence. If both teams have the same number of runs at the close of the bottom of the ninth inning, they may play extra innings until the game has a clear winner. In September of this year (2016), the Cubs and Pirates played a game that ended in a 1-1 tie in the sixth due to a downpour that lasted over an hour. This was the first MLB game to result in a tie since 2005.
Q: When is a pitcher permitted to “warm up?”
Gary McClure: Between each field change or 1/2 inning, there is a brief time period when the pitcher is permitted up to five warm up throws; new and starting pitchers are allowed eight. These throws do not affect the length of game play.
Q: What is the “Mercy Rule?”
Gary McClure: The Mercy Rule is a practice in non-professional baseball and other sports that allow a winner to be called based on a team having a predetermined number or greater of runs after a predetermined inning of the game. NCAA games are subject to this rule only during the last game of a travel series or during a conference game where rules are determined by the league office. The Mercy Rule does not apply in NCAA tournament games, which must be at least nine innings or after a team wins in extra innings.