We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
In the game of baseball there are a lot of assumptions, like “the Yankees are always good,” or “pop flies are easy outs,” or 3 outs ends an inning. They are not always true, so here we take a look at how many outs it actually takes for an inning to be officially recorded.
While most people will assume 3 outs end an inning, in reality, a full inning in baseball consists of 6 outs, 3 for each team. In Major League Baseball as well as most other leagues for adult-age players, you need 9 of these full innings to constitute a regulation game.
However, that doesn’t mean every inning has 6 outs. Some end prematurely; others are extended (at least in the minds of some). Here are some details about the sacred inning of competition in baseball.
Officially, no. Unofficially, it’s kind of a spoken rule by some teams that experience innings extended by circumstances around a 3rd out.
For example, when there are 2 outs, and a pitch is the 3rd strike to the next batter, but the catcher drops the ball and the batter runs to reach first base safely. Then, the pitcher needs to get another out, as in, a “4th out.”
The same would be true for an error in the field. With 2 outs, a batter hits an easy fly ball to the outfield, for what should be the last out of the half-inning. However, the defender drops the ball, and again the pitcher needs to get that 4th out.
The 4th out ~ or even 5th out or 6th out ~ is more of a term heard expressed by announcers, or players or coaches on teams that had to experience such situations. In the latter case it’s more of a sour grapes term, often said aloud to jab at the umpire for a bad call.
In reality the “extra” outs are not counted, by rule, as “outs.” Only officially made putouts are considered outs, and 3 are needed to complete a half-inning. Upon recording of a 3rd out as called by an umpire, play stops.
In recent years some baseball insiders have argued about “playing through” a play to get a 4th out, “in case” the previous (3rd) out, gets reversed on appeal. This has become more common with the introduction of video replays.
How it works: imagine there are 2 outs in an inning and a runner on second, and the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop, who throws to 1st base for the final out ~ but the play is very close. The umpire ruled an out, but during all this the runner on second rounds third and keeps running toward home plate.
A defending team player might not want to take any chances, especially if it would mean a run scoring, and quickly relay the ball to the catcher for the tag for a hypothetical 4th out. The thinking is, maybe the call at first base will be overturned, but the tag at the plate will clearly reveal an out.
You won’t find anything in baseball rules about “playing through.” In fact, once the umpire calls the 3rd out, play officially ends. What the defenders do with the “dead ball” is up to them; they cannot do anything to record “extra” outs.
Again, it’s more a situation of sour grapes, where a defending team will keep acting as if it’s getting additional outs “just in case” the umpire missed a call “again.” It’s an action intended to insult.
Yes, half innings can be ended with less than 3 outs; and full innings can end after less than 6.
- When a walk-off hit ends a game. In that instance, the losing team recorded 26, 25, or 24 outs ~ but not the full 27 required for 9 innings. Example: the Oakland A’s recorded only 26 outs in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. There were 2 outs when Kirk Gibson hit the home run to bring the end of the game, and at that point there was no reason to keep playing until a 3rd out was recorded.
- When games are stopped mid-inning. Sometimes conditions on the field, whether by the weather, or man-made, force umpires to call games regardless of how many outs there are in a particular inning.
In terms of how many outs are recorded in an inning, no, the different types of outs don’t matter.
If you wondered, “What are these ‘different’ types of outs,” consider:
- Normally recorded outs are when a defensive player catches a hit baseball before it touches the ground; or if runners are put out at bases either by force out, or tag.
- Umpire-ruled outs are instances where an umpire can call an automatic out during a baseball game, such as when a hit ball strikes a runner who’s off a base. During an infield fly situation, the batter is called out immediately even though the ball has yet to be caught by an infielder. This is to prevent infielders from shenanigans like dropping the ball purposely to try to quickly turn double plays with force outs on unsuspecting runners.
When Do Baseball Innings Start?
When the umpire yells out “Play ball!” or another verbal term, as in “Play!”; or makes a simple gesture indicating the pitcher may now throw, like pointing at him.
People new to baseball are prone to ask, how do they decide which team bats first in an inning? The answer in the MLB today is, the home team always bats 2nd, and last.
It wasn’t always like this, as decades ago the home team had the choice of batting first, or waiting until the opposing team finished their 3 outs in inning 1.
They call it “top” or “bottom” of an inning due to how it appears in a baseball line score. Baseball scores and statistics by inning run left to right horizontally, listing first the team that batted first, then right underneath that, the other team. Hence one team bats in the top of all innings; the other in the bottom.
It’s just a way to differentiate where precisely in an inning play is happening, or when it happened.
During that time when 3 outs are recorded on the first team, and while the opposing team has yet to bat during that same inning, it is known as the middle of the inning.
The word inning has come to be mostly known of how a baseball game is divided, in terms of who bats and who plays defense.
The word existed before baseball to govern similar circumstances in other sports, namely cricket, horseshoes, billiards, or croquet, where players must take turns. It is just more commonly used in the baseball lexicon.
The term sudden death refers to a sports team that lost a game on a single, immediate action, like a goal scored, a touchdown or field goal in non-baseball sports, or a home run by the home team in baseball.
“Sudden Death” happens only when the home team, or the team batting in the bottom of innings, scores a final run to break a tie in the 9th inning or in extra innings.
The reason is, in baseball the team that bats second always gets the last at-bats. So, if a game is tied in the 9th inning, or in extra innings, and if the visiting/top-of-inning batting team scores to break a tie, then the home team gets one last chance to either tie the game and keep playing, or score a run more than the other team to end the contest.
Baseball has no sudden death like those in other major sports, where a team could score and end the game before the losing team even has a chance to try to tie the score, a la last-second scores in football. Sudden-death rules in the National Football League have been much debated in recent years because of this phenomenon.
See Also: Can Baseball Game End In A Tie?
Umpire’s call, like when the batter is ejected for saying something while at the plate. Yes, you can get tossed from a game, and therefore cost your team an out, by being rude or unruly with the home plate umpire!
Umpires hold a considerable amount of discretion in this area. For instance, if a pitcher takes too long to begin a windup to throw, or a batter takes too long to settle into the batter’s box, an umpire can issue a warning to speed things up. In severe cases, an umpire might call an automatic ball or strike, or an out, despite no action occurring.
The home plate umpire also has discretion about how much to take verbally from players and coaches ~ and even fans! He or she might issue a warning about complaints regarding a certain call, and if the complaints persist the ump can order ejections.
This includes fans in the stands. An umpire could rule a fan must be removed from the stands, or even the entire stadium, if he or she feels that fan is negatively disrupting the game.
While we’re onto questions related to outs and innings in baseball, let’s get straight into …
Question: How many outs are there in MLB extra inning games?
Answer: Depends on how many innings a game goes. For instance, in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series, the Dodgers and Red Sox played 18 innings ~ which means there were 105 outs. There would have been 108, except the game ended immediately when Dodger Max Muncy hit a home run to lead off the 18th inning. Therefore, the Red Sox for the game recorded 51 outs, while the Dodgers had 54 outs.
Q.: How many outs are there in an Inning in Minor League Baseball (MiLB)?
A.: Same as in the big leagues, 6 outs, or 3 outs per half inning.
Q.: Do Major League Baseball teams need at least 27 outs to win during the playoffs and World Series?
A.: Yes, unless the game is tied after the completion of 9 innings, in which case the game will go to extra innings until a team scores a run while the other does not. Unlike regular-season games, which can be called early and still be official as long as 5 innings are completed, for postseason games MLB requires completion of a full 9 ~ even if games have to be suspended and re-started the following day from the point in which play was stopped.
Q.: If an inning goes past 3 outs because a catcher dropped the 3rd strike, does the pitcher get credited with a strikeout anyway?
A.: No. If there’s a dropped ball or passed ball by the catcher on a 3rd strike, whether by swinging or called by an umpire, and the runner reaches 1st base safely, no out was recorded therefore no strikeout given to the pitcher.