How long is an 'official game' in Major League Baseball?

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How long is an 'official game' in Major League Baseball? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A Major League Baseball game is meant to go nine innings, but things don’t always go according to plan.

Weather can play a factor in how long a game goes, or if a game is even played at all. From rain to more serious conditions like lightning or tornadoes, MLB has protocols in place if Mother Nature gets in the way of the action.

Here’s a breakdown of what qualifies as an “official game” and how many innings are needed for a game to count:

How many innings are needed for an MLB game?

A matchup must make it through the top of the fifth inning at a minimum before it can be considered an official game. If the home team is trailing at that point, the bottom of the fifth inning must be played in order for the game to be marked official.

Per the MLB rulebook:

“A game is considered a regulation game -- also known as an "official game" -- once the visiting team has made 15 outs (five innings) and the home team is leading, or once the home team has made 15 outs regardless of score. …

“If a regulation game is terminated early due to weather, the results are considered final if the home team is leading. If the home team is trailing, the results are considered final if the game is not in the midst of an inning when the visiting team has taken the lead.

“If a regulation game is terminated early due to weather and the game is either tied or in the midst of an inning in which the visiting team has taken the lead, it becomes a suspended game that will be completed at a later date from the point of termination.”

What happens if an MLB game starts and is cut short due to weather?

If a game was cut off early due to weather before becoming official prior to the 2020 season, all results up to that point did not count and the game would start over at another date.

As part of MLB’s health and safety protocol changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, games that were cut short due to weather were resumed at a later date.

What happens if an MLB game is tied after nine innings?

If a game is tied after nine full innings, it heads into extra innings. The game continues until the home team takes the lead at any point or the visiting team takes the lead and prevents the home team from tying the game or taking the lead in the bottom half of the inning.