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Different sports have different rules about tie games. In professional hockey and soccer, it is not uncommon for a game to end in a tie. However, in professional basketball and football, ties are very uncommon. In the NBA and NFL, a game is not allowed to end in a tie.
Since different sports have different rules, it’s fair to wonder what the rules are in baseball. Can baseball end in a tie?
In Major League Baseball, regulation games are not allowed to end in a tie. MLB games will only end in a tie as a last resort brought on by unforeseen circumstances. This happens very rarely.
When Was the Last MLB Tie Game?
The most recent MLB game to end in a tie happened on September 29, 2016. The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates were tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning when rain made it impossible to continue. Because the result of the game would have no impact on the final standings, MLB did not reschedule the contest.
While MLB officially declared it a tie, the game was not listed as a tie in the standings. Instead, the game was simply not included in either team’s record for the 2016 season.
The last game before that to end in a tie happened all the way back in 2005. The Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros found themselves tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning when the game was called off due to stormy weather.
While the statistics from this game were officially recorded, the result of the game itself was not. Instead, the Reds and Astros played a makeup game the next day.
In modern times, the most noteworthy game to officially end in a tie was the 2002 All-Star Game. The game had simply gone on too long and both teams were running out of pitchers to use. The All-Star game is an exhibition game, not a regulation game, and so it was called a tie after 11 innings.
Factors That Lead a Baseball Game to End in a Tie
In earlier years, baseball games would sometimes end in a tie because of inclement weather or darkness that made it impossible for the game to continue. These days, stadium lights are strong enough that darkness is not a problem, and if a game must be halted due to weather, it will either be replayed or resumed at a later date.
Occasionally, however, a game that is paused may not be resumed if the league cannot reschedule the game until the end of the season, and if, by that point, it is clear the game will have no effect on the postseason race. In such a case, the game will not be resumed or replayed. If the game was tied when it was originally paused, MLB may officially declare the game a tie.
Such a game will not be counted as a tie in the official standings. Instead, it will not be included in the standings at all.
How Do Extra Innings Work?
If a game is tied after all nine innings have been played, the game goes into extra innings. In extra innings, each team gets three outs to try to score — just like in a regular inning.
If one team is winning after both teams have come to bat, the game is over. If the game remains tied, the teams will play another extra inning.
There is no limit to how many extra innings can be played. The game will continue until one team wins — unless, of course, the game cannot continue due to weather or another complicating factor.
What is a Walk-Off Win?
Many extra-inning games end in walk-off wins. A walk-off win happens when a team scores the winning run and the game is immediately over. The winning team does not have to finish their at-bats, because they have already won the game.
A walk-off can happen in the ninth inning or any inning thereafter because it must happen in the last inning of the game.
A walk-off win can only happen in the bottom half of an inning. If a team scores in the top half of the inning, they cannot walk off because the other team still gets a chance to bat.
If the home team wins a game in extra innings, it will always be a walk-off. This is because the home team always bats in the bottom half of an inning. If the team that bats in the bottom half scores during extra innings, the game is over.
What is the Longest Game in MLB History?
The longest game in MLB history by number of innings took place on May 1, 1920. The Brooklyn Robins and the Boston Braves played for 26 innings before the game was ultimately called in a tie due to darkness.
However, while the game lasted nearly as many innings as three typical baseball games, it only went on for 3 hours and 50 minutes. That’s not much longer than an average baseball game lasts in the present day.
The longest game in MLB history according to time took place on May 8, 1984 between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. It ran on for 8 hours and six minutes, and took 25 innings to complete. The White Sox eventually won on a walk-off home run — the day after the game had originally started.
Interestingly, the longest professional baseball game was not an MLB game; it took place in the Triple-A International League. The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings played a game that lasted 33 innings and went on for 8 hours and 25 minutes. That’s seven innings longer than the longest MLB game.
The New MLB Rule for Extra Innings in 2022
In 2020, MLB introduced a brand new rule for extra innings. In extra innings, each half-inning now starts with a runner automatically placed on second base. This runner will be the last batter to get out in the previous inning, unless the team decides to replace him with a pinch runner.
The rule is designed to make it easier for teams to score in extra innings. With a runner already in scoring position, the batting team only needs one hit to drive in a run and potentially win the ballgame.
This rule is not in effect for postseason games.
Is the New Extra Innings Rule Permanent?
The rule was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce long extra-innings games. In 2020, for the first time in more than 100 years, no game lasted longer than 13 innings, so it’s safe to say the new rule worked.
The rule remained in place in 2021, and while it was briefly reversed before the 2022 season, that decision was itself reversed and the automatic runner on second rule remains in place. Before the 2023 season, the league and the players will make a decision as to whether or not this rule should continue.
What is the Runner on Second Base Called?
Many fans refer to the runner who is automatically placed on second base as the “ghost runner,” but that is not an official name. According to MLB.com, that player is called the “designated runner.”
When Was the First Tie In a Major League Baseball Game?
The first known tie in MLB history took place on May 25, 1876. A contest between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Louisville Grays ended in a 2-2 tie after 14 innings.
Do Other Professional Baseball Leagues Allow Games To End in a Tie?
In other professional baseball leagues, ties happen more frequently. Both the NPB of Japan and the KBO of South Korea have 12-inning limits for regular season games. After the game reaches the innings limit, it will be called a tie.
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