Baseball games are nine innings long. With a season that runs from the start of April to the end of October, many times weather impacts a game. When rain and other delays -- thunder, lightning or snow -- force baseball players to the sideline, the teams and the umpires have to make a decision on whether the game can continue safely.
Rainout Before a Game Starts
Even though baseball stadiums employ top-of-the-line groundskeepers and have the best equipment for preparing the fields, sometimes a game has to be postponed because of weather. The home team is in charge of determining whether the game can be played or should be officially termed a rainout prior to the start of the first inning. If the game is early in the season, the team may be more willing to call a rainout because there will be ample opportunities to play the game at a later date. However, they may be willing to to endure more difficult weather conditions later in the season, when open dates are less available.
Once the game has started, the game is in the hands of the umpiring crew on the field. If the umpires decide to pull the players off the field because the conditions are unsafe or not playable, the status of the game is dependent on the score and location. If the game has reached five innings and the game is not tied, the game can be an official victory for the team that is ahead at the time the players are pulled off the field. This is called a rain-shortened game.
Rainouts and Suspended Games
If the home team is ahead after the visitor has batted in the fifth, it is an official game. If the home team is behind after the visitor has batted in the fifth and the game is called, the game is a rainout and the visiting team does not get credit. If the home team is ahead by two runs when the players are pulled off the field, but the visiting team scores two runs in the top of the next inning before the players are pulled, the game is suspended and picked up at a later date from the point when the rain came.
There are no rain-shortened games in the postseason. The commissioner's office of baseball has determined that all playoff and World Series games must be played to completion to be official. If rain makes the game unplayable after the sixth inning, the game picks up from that point at a scheduled future date.