Can You Tie in Baseball?

Baseball Player on Field Photo

Baseball is a game that is played in nine innings, and if the score is tied at the end of the ninth inning, the game goes into extra innings. Extra innings allow for the game to continue until a winner is declared, although rare, baseball games can technically end in a tie. In this article, we will explore the history of tie games in baseball, reasons for a game ending in a tie, and the last time a tie game occurred in the MLB.

During baseball’s early days, the game was played until it got too dark to see. Without stadium lights, ballparks could not host games past sunset, which led to games ending in a tie or resuming on another day. The trend began to change in 1935 when the first night game was played by the Cincinnati Reds. From 1935 to 1988, more and more baseball stadiums added lights, which made tie games rare.

Today, a regular-season baseball game can end in a tie for a specific reason. If the game is at the end of the season, and the teams will not play against each other again via the schedule, it won’t make a difference to either team via the playoff structure, meaning that both teams won’t make the playoffs, or one (or both) of the teams won the home-field advantage, and it doesn’t matter if they win or lose that game. For example, if both teams are mathematically out of the postseason, and they had no more games against each other for the rest of the year, and the game got called in the rain delay in the sixth inning, the game could end in a tie. Since it is meaningless to both teams and at the end of the year, it doesn’t make sense to schedule a new game to resume play.

The All-Star game famously ended in a tie in 2002 because the teams were running out of pitchers. Since the All-Star game was supposed to be a game for the fans and for it to be fun, there was no reason to force players to play longer than what was necessary.

The most recent MLB tie game took place on September 29, 2016, during the season’s final match between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. During the sixth inning, with a 1-1 tie, the game went into a rain delay and was eventually canceled. Since the Chicago Cubs already had the best record in the National League, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the game was canceled and not made up.

Ties cannot occur in the MLB Playoffs. These games must end with one team winning to move onto the next round or leave via elimination. If a match is in a tie and gets postponed via lousy weather, it will resume the next day.

While fans of soccer are familiar with games ending in a tie, baseball fans are not. Introducing ties in baseball could eliminate the need for extra innings, which would protect pitchers and hitters from playing too long, and would grant both teams a .5 point in the standings, moving on to the next game. However, it would also change the sport too much for traditional fans who love to see a winner during games.

In conclusion, tying in Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball games is rare. Ties only occur if the season’s schedule wouldn’t matter if they played again or not. Otherwise, a rain delay that causes a tie after the fifth inning will continue the next day during the regular season.