What is the Mercy Rule in Baseball?

Did you know that a mercy rule can end a game early? Find out more about this rule and how it affects the game.
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

Don’t understand why your game ended early? It may have been because of the Mercy Rule. The definition of a Mercy Rule is when the game ends early because your team is winning or losing by a large amount.

The amount of runs and number of innings that this happens in depends upon your league. For many leagues, it is also known as the Ten Run Rule, but can also be known as the Skunk Rule, Knockout Rule, Slaughter Rule, or simply as the Run Rule. 

The Ten Run Rule Explained

The Ten Run Rule has a pretty simple explanation – if your league follows this rule. If at the end of 5 innings, your team is up by ten runs, the game ends and you win. The opposite is true as well. If at the end of five innings your team is down ten runs then the game ends and you lose. If you are the home team and are winning, you will not bat in the bottom half of the inning. But, if you are the home team and are losing, you will have the opportunity to bat in the bottom half of the inning.

Once the game enters the bottom of the fifth, your game has the potential to end. If you are the home team, as soon as you reach the ten-run threshold the game ends. This could be in the bottom of the fifth or sixth inning. If you are winning in the bottom of the seventh, in a seven-inning league, then the game would be over. In this case, the Mercy Rule would not take place. Again, the opposite could be true as well. If you are the visiting team, you could win by Mercy Rule if you are up by ten at the end of five innings. 

Benefits of the Ten Run Rule

There are many benefits to the Ten Run Rule. Since baseball is not a timed game, the Ten Run Rule allows you to end games on time. Without the Ten Run Rule, your team could be a part of a never-ending game – and that isn’t fun for the team winning or losing. Perhaps most importantly, your young pitchers save their arms. Whether you are on the winning or losing end of a lopsided game, you want to avoid having your pitchers throw meaningless innings. Lastly, the Ten Run Rule prevents a team from running up the score. If you have ever sat through a game where your pitcher can’t find the strike zone, or the other team seems to hit everything, then you know how demoralizing that can be to a team. 

The Mercy Rule in Little League Baseball 

You should know that the Mercy Rule in Little League Baseball is simply known as the Run Rule. According to the Little League Rules, there are two types of Run Rules. If your team is ahead by 15 runs after three innings or 10 runs after five innings, the game is considered over. If your team is the home team, then the innings change to two and a half innings and four and a half innings, respectively. In Little League baseball you should NOT call this rule anything other than the Run Rule. 

The Mercy Rule in USSSA Baseball

The Mercy Rule in USSSA Baseball is dependent upon the length of your game. In a six-inning game, there is a 15-run rule after three innings. There is also an 8-run rule after four innings. 

If you are playing a seven-inning game, there are three run differential options – 15 runs after three, 12 runs after four, or 8 runs after five.  

The Ten Run Rule in High School Baseball

The Run Rule in high school baseball can vary depending upon where you play. In most cases, you will find that most leagues will follow the 10 runs after five innings rule. Again this may vary depending on your league or tournament that you are playing in. 

The Mercy Rule in College Baseball

The Mercy Rule in College Baseball depends on what conference you are playing in and how long the game is. College games often are nine innings, but sometimes you might see a seven-inning game if teams are playing a doubleheader

In the case of a nine-inning game, if your team (or opponent) is winning by 10 runs after seven innings (or after the top of the sixth if you are the home team) the game ends.

The Mercy Rule is in play after five innings (or after the top of the fourth if you are the home team) if your team is ahead by ten runs. 


Is There a Mercy Rule in AAA Baseball? 

There is no Mercy Rule in AAA baseball. You might find it interesting to note that the MiLB tests a lot of new rules to potentially use in MLB, but currently, there is no Run Rule. 

Is There a Run Rule in MLB? 

There is no Run Rule in MLB. You may see some high-scoring games or even lopsided scores, but you will not see a game ended because of a run rule. 

Would MLB Ever Implement a Run Rule?

You should never say never, but MLB will likely never implement a Run Rule. You are watching professionals playing at the highest level of competition. While there are occasional lopsided scores, you will find the levels of competition to be more even than other levels. 

What is a Skunk in Baseball? 

A “Skunk” in baseball is another term used to describe a Run Rule or Mercy Rule. You will find that the requirements will vary depending upon the league and level of play. 

Final Word

Whether you call it a Mercy Rule, Run Rule, Skunk, or something else – the Mercy Rule is meant to save time, and pitchers’ arms, and prevent teams from running up the score. The terms of the rule depend on the league and level that you play in, but hopefully, help to keep teams competitive. 

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