How Many Outs in an Inning of Baseball?

Baseball rules can vary depending on the league and age group playing the game. However, one rule that does not change is the number of outs in an inning. Baseball innings consist of 6 outs: three in the top half of the inning, and three in the bottom.

Can a Team Get More than Three Outs in a Half-Inning?

One of the first rules you learn once you start playing baseball is that each team gets three outs per inning. Diehard baseball fans point to this as an advantage to the sport; even if you are winning, a team must give the other team an opportunity to score (compare to running out the clock in baseball, or playing keep away in soccer).

So it’s simple then? Three outs is what you get. Well, as Mr. Lee Corso might say: Not so fast!
There are a couple ways to record more than three outs in an inning: dropped third strike and time play.

Dropped Third Strike

Strikeouts require three things:

  1. A batter have two strikes.
  2. A batter to swing and miss, or the batter to not swing at a pitch in the strike zone.
  3. The catcher to secure the third strike.

If the catcher drops the third strike, the batter has the opportunity to advance to first base as long as the base is unoccupied, or as long as there is two outs (this requires the runner on first to also advance).

Additional outs occur if the runner reaches base successfully. In the official scorebook, the pitcher still receives a strikeout despite the runner safely reaching second base. Which accounts for our fourth (or more) out. But these are just technically more than three outs. The official scorecard will reflect only three outs because the batter reached base safely.

You can find more details in the MLB official rule book. And check out this article by Richard Hershberger over at the Society for American Baseball Research for some information on the origins of the third strike.

Time Play

So, there is the mythical time play. The Hardball Times describes some situations for time plays. Essentially, Rule 5.09(c) (formerly 7.10) provides space for “appeal plays may require an umpire to recognize an apparent fourth out“. An example of a time play where a fourth out could have been used occurred during a Dodgers and Diamondbacks game in 2012:

In this case, a few things occurred that eventually allowed the Dodgers to gain a run on this inning-ending play:

  • The Diamondbacks tagged the runner on second base after the runner on third scored (based on the home plate umpire’s judgment).
  • The Diamondbacks failed to appeal whether the runner on third left the base too soon (which, he did, because he took off on contact and failed to return to the base).
  • The Dodgers to recognize the situation and consult with the home plate umpire after the Diamondbacks left the field, which indicates they would not be appealing anything on the play.
  • And this, my friends, is why someone on the bench should know everything in the rule book.

    Has Any Batter Recorded All Three Outs in a Half-Inning?

    No, no player has accomplished such a dubious feat. However, Andrew Benintendi has come the closest. While he does not officially go down for all three outs, they all came while he was batting. The first out occurred from a sacrifice bunt, and the next two outs occurred during a double play.

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