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The extra-inning rule has shortened games

Unique endings have been the norm in extras this season

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks in 10 innings. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The Dodgers have played four extra-inning games this season, including Wednesday night’s win over the Diamondbacks. They’ve run the gamut of styles, including a sacrifice bunt on Wednesday that turned into a game-tying throwing error, setting up the walk-off win.

“I think the games seem like they go a little quicker. It’s not 15-inning games and we’re not all just trying to hit home runs,” said Mookie Betts, whose solo home run in the ninth sent the game into extra frames. “I think it definitely brings different different aspects back into the game, like moving runners, guys trying to put the ball in play in different areas.”

The reason for adopting the new rule this year that starts every extra inning with a runner on second was to end games sooner in a pandemic-shortened season, or at least prevent the marathon-type games that could decimate a pitching staff. Over 162 games, that type of attrition can be managed, or at least endured. Over 60 games, the cost is magnified.

So far, the plan is working. Over two-thirds of all extra-inning games this season have ended in the 10th inning, and only four of 44 games went past the 11th. In 2019, 28.4% of extra-inning games lasted more than 11 innings, and 23 games (11.1 percent) went 14 or more innings.

Extra-inning games, 2019-2020

Year Extra-inning games Done by 10 Done by 11 Done by 12 Done by 13 14+ innings
Year Extra-inning games Done by 10 Done by 11 Done by 12 Done by 13 14+ innings
2019 208 91 (43.8%) 149 (71.6%) 171 (82.2%) 185 (88.9%) 23 (11.1%)
2020 44 30 (68.2%) 40 (90.9%) 42 (95.4%) 44 (100%) 0 (0%)
Source: Baseball-Reference

The extra innings themselves have been eventful, which is to be expected when every extra inning begins with a runner in scoring position. The Dodgers have scored in six of their eight extra frames this season, totaling eight runs, while allowing runs in four of eight extra innings, totaling six runs.

But the variety of the Dodgers’ three extra-inning wins has been telling, too.

They won a game in Houston on July 29 on the first leadoff two-run home run in major league history, by Edwin Rios.

They won a game in Anaheim on Aug. 15 on the first leadoff sacrifice fly in major league history, by Max Muncy, after ghost runner Chris Taylor started the inning by stealing third base.

They won a game Wednesday at home starting a rally with a sacrifice bunt by Taylor, helped by a terrible throw by pitcher Junior Guerra, allowing the tying run to score and put the winning run in scoring position.

“I think there’s a lot of different variables that come into play — home, road, who’s hitting, who’s behind the hitter, who’s on second base, who’s pitching,” manager Dave Roberts said after Wednesday’s game. “The ins and outs of baseball, the game within the game. I actually kind of like that style.”

With no pitchers hitting this season, the Dodgers have only had five sacrifice bunt attempts all season. Taylor’s bunt Wednesday night was their only one in extra innings. It was also the Dodgers’ first extra-inning game at Dodger Stadium, and it makes more sense for the home team to bunt, knowing exactly what they need.

“It becomes a chess match, and typically I’m used to the National League style of baseball. So there’s a little bit of strategy involved, which I think is fun.”