Ever wondered how long a baseball game lasts? Surprisingly, there is no set answer. Baseball games can range in length from well under three hours to well over four hours.
The number of innings in a baseball game is also not set in stone. In general, most professional baseball games consist of nine innings. However, there are some exceptions.
Innings in Baseball
As noted above, a regulation baseball game consists of nine innings. In an inning, each team gets a chance to bat until they have three outs. Once both teams have batted in the ninth inning, the game is over—even if one team is leading by a large margin. (There are some exceptions to this rule, which we’ll get into later.)
Why Nine Innings?
Nine innings was adopted as the standard length of a game in 1857 by Alexander Cartwright, considered by many to be the “father” of baseball. At the time, games were typically much shorter—sometimes lasting only an inning or two—so nine innings seemed like a lot.
However, as the popularity of baseball grew, so did the duration of games. By 1893, professional games were typically around two hours long, and by the early 20th century, three hours was not uncommon.
What Happens if the Game is Tied After 9 Innings?
Although most baseball games will end after 9 innings if one team is ahead on runs, sometimes the game ends in a tie. If the score is tied at the end of regulation (9 innings), then both teams will get to play an extra inning until one team finally scores and wins the game. These extra innings are called “overtime.”
In terms of how many innings can be played in an overtime game, there is no set limit. The game will keep going until one team finally emerges victorious. In 2019, for example, there was one 13-inning game and two 14-inning games during MLB regular season play. The longest regular season game ever played lasted for 25 innings and spanned 8 hours and 46 minutes! Thankfully, MLB has since instituted a rule limiting regular season games to 4 hours from start to finish in order toavoid marathon contests like that one.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are some exceptions to the rule when it comes to the number of innings in a baseball game. For example, if one team is ahead by a large margin—say, 10 or more runs—then the losing team may concede defeat before all nine innings have been played. This is called a mercy rule, and it exists in order to prevent one team from having to play an unnecessarily long and one-sided game.
Another exception occurs when a game goes into extra innings. Extra innings occur when the score is tied at the end of regulation (nine innings). In this case, both teams will continue playing until one team finally breaks the tie and takes the lead. In general, each team gets three outs per inning in extra innings. However, in some cases (such as international competitions), each team may only get one out per inning in extras.
How Many Innings in MLB Regular Season Games?
In Major League Baseball (MLB), each game is comprised of nine innings. That means that there are 27 outs in a regulation game—18 if the home team is leading after 8 innings (the “mercy rule”). MLB games can end in a tie if both teams have the same score after 9 innings (or after extra innings, as we’ll discuss shortly).
It’s worth noting that not all baseball leagues follow the same rules. For example, high school games only last 7 innings, while little league games only last 6 innings. College games can last either 9 or 7 innings depending on the league. However, professional games in all U.S.-based baseball leagues follow the MLB rules and have 9 inniings.
So, how long does a typical baseball game last? It depends! Most professional games consist of nine innings, but there are some exceptions. If one team is ahead by a large margin or if the game goes into extra innings, then the number of innings may be less than nine. However you slice it, though, baseball games can range in length from under three hours to over four hours—so make sure you set aside plenty of time if you’re planning on catching one live!