Spring training games ending in ties are not uncommon because managers don’t want to use up pitchers in extra innings in February. But history was made in Saturday’s Grapefruit League tie between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.
It’s every ballplayer’s dream (maybe not in spring training, but you get it): bases loaded, two outs, full count, tie game. However, the Braves’ Cal Conley struck out without even seeing a pitch on a 3-2 count to end the game.
He wasn’t set in the batter’s box in time.
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New MLB rules give pitchers 20 seconds to deliver a pitch with runners on base. But batters have just eight seconds, whether there are base runners or not, to get set. If pitchers do not oblige, a ball is called. If hitters don’t, it’s a strike. Since Conley was not ready, strike three was called, and the game ended in a tie after nine innings.
While tightening the pace of play is necessary for the sport, doing so at the expense of the literal ending of the game might be just a stretch.
Manny Machado became the first victim of the pitch clock rules Friday. He was not set in time and immediately fell into an 0-1 hole.
“I’m gonna have to make a big adjustment. I might be 0-1 down a lot this year,” Machado said afterward. “It’s super fast. There’s definitely an adjustment it’s gonna be.”
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The changes come after test drives in the minor leagues, where MLB says games have been shortened by an average of 26 minutes.
Two games were played Friday between MLB teams. The game between the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners took two hours and 29 minutes, while the game between the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals took two hours and 33 minutes.
It’s a sample size considering it is early in spring training. And plenty of minor leaguers, who are well-accustomed to the faster pace, are playing. So maybe it isn’t the best indicator. But if baseball wants a quicker pace to games, it’s off to a hot start, and the sample size from the minors is surely quite large.
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Last season, Major League games lasted three hours and three minutes on average, and the average length hasn’t been under three hours since 2015 (2:56). You have to go back to 1978 for the last time the average game took less than 2½ hours.