How many innings are there in MLB baseball games? Tiebreaker rule and ghost runner
MLB’s extra-innings tiebreaker rule, in which a runner is automatically placed at second base to begin each extra inning, is going into effect this season.
MLB first used the extra-innings tiebreaker rule during the 60-game pandemic season in 2020 to shorten games and reduce injury risk after the unusual spring training shutdown and midsummer build-up period for pitchers. The rule remained temporary in 2021 and 2022 and has now been made permanent.
There are nine innings split into two halve in a regulation baseball game—a top of an inning where the visiting team hits first. After three outs, it then changes to the bottom of the inning, where the home team comes up, and again, they have three releases to score as many runs as possible. Once that three-out is complete, it starts the next inning and repeats until the 9th.
Now in the 9th, it can be a little trickier. If, in the top half of the 9th, the home team wins by a single run, and the visiting team has its three last outs to score. If they do not cut and the home teams get the three puts, the game is over, and it ends in 9 and 1/2 inning played. Because the home team had the lead, they no longer needed to bat because they had won.
If the home team would have to come up to bat and try to score and they fail, then the game can go into what’s called “Extra Innings” and starts at the top of the 10th, in which case the game can go on as long as it takes until a team wins the game.
Historically, 10 percent of regular season games go to extra innings. Last season 223 of 2,430 regular season games went to extra innings or 9.2 percent. With the extra-innings tiebreaker rule, only seven games have gone as long as 13 innings in the last three seasons. There were 37 13-inning games in 2019 alone, the previous year with “normal” extra-inning rules.
The “Ghost Runner” or “Manfred Man” rule is a rule that places a runner at second base at the start of every extra inning in the regular season. The rule was enforced initially amid the 2020 season to reduce injury risk and tatter on pitchers in a limited player pool. It limits the circumstances of long-run extra-innings games, and Postseason games will continue to feature “regular” play in extra innings.
The official rule says: the runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning in extras will be the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning leadoff hitter or a pinch-runner. So, if the No. 7 hitter in the order is due to lead off, the No. 6 hitter (or a pinch-runner for the No. 6 hitter) would be placed on second base.
If the automatic (ghost) runner comes around to score, an earned run will not be charged to the pitcher.