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What Are Innings in Baseball? America’s Game and Its Rules

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Have you watched baseball and felt lost because you couldn’t tell what was going on? To clear the confusion, you must know the concept of innings in baseball, which indicates the length of a game. Professional and college baseball games take the same duration while high school games take less time.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what an inning is and comfortably cheer for your favorite baseball team.

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What Are Innings in Baseball?

A baseball game. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-3.0

A baseball game is divided into sections, innings, each played in two halves. The home team bats second after the visiting team and each bats and fields once during an inning. The offensive team or batting team hits the ball into the field of play aiming to score as many runs as possible while the fielding team would try to stop them.

In Major League Baseball (MLB), the game goes for nine rounds and can last up to three hours. That said, when the score is leveled, innings will be added until one team wins. 

In some instances, the game can end after five innings. This usually happens when one team has a big lead after five innings, and will automatically win the game under the ‘Mercy Rule’. 

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Do All Games Have Nine Innings?

David Ortiz playing for the Red Sox. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

A standard length of a professional baseball game is nine innings but not all games will go the distance. For example, when a team is leading by more than 10 runs after the 7th inning, the game ends and the team gets the automatic win. 

When there isn’t a clear winner at the end of the ninth inning, extra innings are added to get a winner. In international competitions, tie-breakers are preferred to speed up the conclusion of a game. In other competitions, for example, in high school baseball games, there are only seven innings.

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Length of an Inning

Innings in baseball explained. Video Credit: TheOnDeckCircle

A lot goes on during a baseball game and the length of one round depends on several factors. Each team tries to outsmart the other. The players – pitchers, catchers and runners – go through their routines to unsettle the opponent, and the coach constantly shuffles things around. Thus, MLB games are estimated to last for around 20 to 30 minutes but can go longer.

The MLB added a pitch clock to quicken the pace of play and regulate the length of the game. As of 2023, the game has used a 30-second timer. A 15-second timer is used between pitches and then a 20-second timer when runners get on base.

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This means that pitchers must deliver the ball before the expiration of their time. Runners and batters must also comply with the time limits or else risk a penalty. 

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Other Factors Influencing Pitch Changes

Other things that can affect the length of a baseball game include:

  • Pitch changes. Coaches make pitch changes to increase the chances of their team to win. When this happens, the game is stopped as the new pitcher prepares to join the game.
  • Commercial breaks and advertising. You can understand that the league must generate revenue and it does through commercial breaks. Unfortunately, this adds to the length of the game.
  • Pitching time. Pitchers tend to take a few more seconds to get into their routine before delivering a ball. Although the time might seem less, it accumulates throughout the game and adds to the length.
  • Injuries. When a player goes down, the game is stopped so he can receive medical attention. It can take a short time, but it can also be a lengthy medical timeout.
  • Replay reviews. During a review of a certain phase of play to check decisions, the game is stopped for the umpires and referees to go through it to make a final decision. 

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Longest Game in Baseball History

The longest professional game in MLB history was played in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings during spring training. The players in this game were from minor leagues, selected from Triple-A clubs.  

This exhibition match lasted for more than eight hours, and saw 33 innings, 218 bats and 36 hits, taking two months to complete. 

In Japan, the longest baseball game was played on April 26 between the Hiroshima Carp and the Yakult Swallows. 

We hope you understand the concept of innings in baseball. It’s a major part of the game and if you want to know what’s happening during play, understand how it works. That said, there are many other concepts you need to know that’ll enhance your viewing experience. But, this is a good start.

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