MLB Baseball 9th Inning Rules

Championship Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game One

The ninth inning of a Major League Baseball game is arguably the most important inning in all of baseball. The ninth inning can be the difference between winning a game or losing it in excruciating fashion. The majority of MLB's rules are the same in the ninth inning as they are in any other inning, but there are a handful of special rules that apply specifically to the ninth inning.

How does a MLB game end?

The ninth inning is the final inning in a regular-length baseball game. If the road team is leading at the end of the ninth inning, the game is over and the road team wins. If the home team has the lead after the top of the ninth inning, the game is over and the home team wins. This means that the bottom of the ninth will not be played. If the home team attains the lead during the bottom of the ninth inning, the game is over immediately and the home team wins.

What are Extra Innings?

If, at the end of nine full innings, the game is tied, it goes into extra innings. A game in extra innings ends when the road team leads at the end of an inning, or when the home team takes the lead. There is no limit to extra innings and games can continue as long as it remains tied at the end of each inning. The longest game in MLB history lasted 26 innings between the Braves and Dodgers in 1920.

What are Walk-Off Wins?

When the home team is tied with the visiting team or trails the visiting team going into the bottom of the ninth inning, it is possible for the home team to get a walk-off win. A walk-off is when the home team takes the lead in the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings. This brings an immediate end to the game. Any win that comes in the home team's final at bat is classified as a walk-off win. Walk-off home runs are the most exciting type of walk-off win but walk-offs can come in any variety as long as a run scores.

What are saves?

A save is an official stat for Major League relievers. It represents when a relief pitcher finishes a game with a lead of no more than three runs. Pitchers whose specific job is to get saves are called closers. If the closer is brought in in the ninth inning with his team ahead by three or fewer runs, he earns a save if he finishes the game in the ninth and his team wins. A pitcher can also get a save by being brought into a game with the potential tying run on base, at bat or on deck, and getting the final outs of the game before the other team ties or takes the lead. Former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has the most career saves with 652 saves.

Defensive Replacements

Although not a rule, a large ninth inning trend is for major league managers to bring in defensive replacements in the ninth inning of a baseball game. They are strong defensive players who replace weaker ones to strengthen a team's defense in the ninth inning. This can be risky if a game goes into extra innings.