A good first start for talking about how to play or watch a game is to begin with speaking of how you win said game. The objective of the game of baseball is deceptively simple:

At the end of nine innings, the team that has scored more runs is the winner.

This is a simple concept for those who have followed baseball for years, but for someone new to the game, I have just introduced three new concepts in that one sentence. We’ll break things down even more over time, but to help you in your understanding of how a game is won, the best place to start is to also teach you how to read the line score.

An Example Line Score and How to Read It

The best example is a real one. Here’s the completed line score as seen on from a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, played in St. Louis:

A few notes about how the line score is composed:

  • The home team (the team in whose city the game is played) is always at the bottom half of the line score. This is not merely cosmetic; the home team is granted an advantage in the game by batting last in each inning.
  • At the right end of the line score is the running total for the three basic stats for each team in the game. These are:
    • Runs, which are the only scoring tally in baseball and were discussed in the game objective above. A run is scored when a batter successfully reaches each of the four bases in succession and touches home plate,
    • Hits, which are recorded when a batter strikes the ball with his bat and successfully reaches base before being put out, and
    • Errors, which are officially recorded defensive mistakes where an out should have been made with what is termed “ordinary effort” but the defensive player did not succeed.
  • Some line scores will include a running total labeled LOB, which indicates runners who were left on base (or “stranded”) by reaching base but not touching home plate before the end of their team’s offensive half of an inning.
  • The remainder of the line score is broken into a grid that shows the number of runs scored in each half-inning. The game starts at the top of the first inning and proceeds from there.
  • In this line score, you can see that St. Louis won the game, with the final score being six to one.


A game of baseball is broken into nine innings. Each inning has a top and a bottom, according to the place in the line score. I’ll put the line score back up so you can see that again:

In the top half of each inning, the visiting team plays offense and the home team plays defense. This continues until the defense records three outs, which is called retiring the side.

After the third out, the teams switch sides and play the bottom half of the inning, likewise until three outs are recorded. The home team plays offense in the bottom half of all innings to give them an advantage, especially in later innings.

As an example, look at the fifth inning in this line score.

In the top of the fifth, the Cubs scored one run before their three outs, and the Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth before their three outs.

(We’ll talk more about how outs work later.)

Note that there’s no clock in baseball of any kind. A team is permitted to continue their half of a given inning until three of their players are put out. There’s no limit to the number of batters who come up in a half-inning, and no rule placing a maximum on the number of runs that can be scored.

Two things to note about innings and how they work:

  • If a game is tied at the end of the ninth inning, additional innings are added to the end of the game until there is a winner. Both halves of the inning are always played to give the home team the chance to answer any leads by the visiting team. This is called extra innings.
  • If the home team has more runs after the top of the ninth inning, the bottom half of the ninth inning is not played. You can see this in the box score above, being marked with an “X”. Similarly, if the home team scores to take the lead at any point in the bottom of the ninth inning or in the bottom of any extra inning, the game immediately ends when that run scores (since there is no point in continuing play).

The Basics

What you’ve read here is the minimum necessary to understand how the game is scored and how your team wins the game. In future posts, I’ll cover more of the concepts listed here, such as how an out is made, how runs are scored, and how teams play offense and defense.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment. I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

Good sight-reads (includes one track that was released in the first pack but I hadn’t cleared in RB3 yet). :) Chord-heavy, but generally fun to play and some decent challenge in there with the patterns.

Maroon 5 is one of those bands I enjoy listening to for reasons that aren’t quite clear even to me. I was happy to see some more tracks in the Music Store.

For lots of Americans, the game of baseball is something that has deep cultural and family connections. For people like myself, my father, and my children, we have grown up listening to and watching baseball, both in person and through various media. Because of this, lots of Americans have an ingrained understanding of the game, the rules, and the various complexities behind it.

Baseball is, as a game, very interesting and rich in strategy and statistical depth. You can watch it and follow it on many different levels.

But what if you haven’t been steeped in this American tradition? What if you come from lands distant, or if you had never seen a baseball game? Are you going to a game for the first time? Are you interested in learning about another sport, one with a storied history and tradition? Are you marrying someone who is a baseball super-fan but you don’t know the first thing about a foul ball, a bunt, or an infield fly?

The following posts are for you. In them, I’ll try to explain the basics of baseball, then moving into more complex aspects of the game, using “real” language and images whenever possible to highlight specific things about the game. It can be difficult to get a handle on the game at first, as many of the rules and concepts are inter-related. It’s hard to know where to start.

If, as you read, and as I write these posts, you have questions or you feel confused, please feel free to add a comment and ask your question or suggest an additional post. I will do what I can to build on this guide based on the needs of its readers.

I’ve added a link in the navigation for this site for these posts; I’ll also try to update this lead post with a table of contents of sorts to try and keep things organized.

I don’t play too many games at my desk anymore; I generally prefer to keep to the console stuff and leave my computer for work and such. But when two places I tend to trust (Penny Arcade and my fellows over at Quarter to Three) recommended the same game at almost the same time, I took notice and decided to bite on a copy.

So here’s my short review of Frozen Synapse:

Take the planning part of the original Rainbow Six—you know, the part that was the best thing about it until they removed it from the game series—and make a game out of that. It’s that awesome.

In the default gametype, you are given four soldiers, of varying types, and your opponent is given the same. You start on opposite ends of a map with rooms, short walls to shoot over and cover behind, and doorways, and you give pathway commands to your dudes. You can have them aim in a certain direction, ignore or focus on enemies, go to different areas, and change tactics all by planning their routes and how you want them to go about their way.

Each player submits their commands and then the game proceeds for five seconds as you watch your respective orders fire at the same time. A game lasts as long as eight turns, so all the action happens in 40 seconds or less. When a match is concluded, the whole thing looks like this:

Of course, it takes a bit longer to compose your orders, as you get to change them between each turn, and you can run simulations based on what you think your opponent will do to help you figure out the best plan of attack. The game can even be played asynchronously, where you each submit your respective turns and then the game emails you to let you know you need to come back.

For $20, you get a copy for yourself and a copy for a friend. It’s a pretty good deal, and you support indie game development by buying it. Find out more here.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up the Pat Benatar pack for Rock Band, mostly out of curiosity. Last night I played “Love Is a Battlefield” for the first time and found it to be a lot more fun than I was expecting. I suppose I hadn’t listened to what the guitar was doing in the background before.

I did 95% on sightread, which was good enough for 1,496th on the leaderboard.

It’s not the best Benatar on Rock Band, though; that honor goes to “Heartbreaker.”

My Rock Band activity page is here, by the way. I really wish Harmonix provided RSS feeds or another way to ingest this information elsewhere. I turned on the Facebook integration today, but I prefer to bring this stuff into my own site where I can control it.

Well, I wasn’t able to clear Bully in time, so I’m on my scheduled break from the backlog now to take in Dead Space 2, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating for some time.

The first game was a well-crafted piece of survival horror. It wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking, but it was a refinement of a lot of concepts in games that had come before. I found that it relied on cheap scares a bit too much, and near the end they designed just decided to toss a bunch of enemies at you just to slow down the pace of the game, but the story was enough to keep me interested and I thought the universe was well-planned and thought-out.

I’m about three hours in to Dead Space 2 and in game terms have just started Chapter 6, which means I’m past the first “what a twist” moment and also past the first truly irritating gameplay moment I’ve seen so far. Thankfully, the game is pretty amazing out of the gate. The images and sound are exactly right and create just enough tension to keep you going, and the pacing is just as masterful as the original. It’s 30 seconds of frenetic “save yourself” action followed by a minute or two of calm and relative safety.

The atmosphere so far has had plenty of the morbid and creepifying, especially reminiscent of the near-final areas of the first game. That’s an unnerving way to start out the sequel because it reminds you so much of the constant action towards the end of its predecessor. In some contrast to the earlier game, this one has wasted no time getting weapons into my hands, and the quick start was both fun and exciting.

The story so far has raised nothing but questions that I hope will be resolved by the end of the game. Truth be told, I had a hard time stopping to get some sleep, let alone type out my reactions, so this should tell you how interested I am. Dead Space had me leaning forward in my seat, palms slick from anxiety over the shadow on the wall or the sound coming from behind me. So far, this one’s got its hooks in me just as well.

As a result of the first round of voting for the Year of the Backlog, I’ve since started on Bully, which is a game that was first released on the PlayStation 2 in 2006, and later re-released as the “Scholarship Edition” for the Xbox 360 in 2008. It’s a Rockstar game, which generally tells you most of what you need to know (at the very least, that Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption have been two of my favorite games of this generation).

So far, the game tells me that I’m 4.14% complete after a couple of days, and I’m still clearing the first bits of tutorial from the game. So far, it has a pretty similar structure to most Rockstar Games, in that it slowly introduces you to a rather large cast of characters, and then forces you to do a bunch of things for them, sometimes for little apparent reason.

It’s also a bit different from other Rockstar games I’ve played in that the missions aren’t being given by any specific characters, but instead you’re sometimes given a choice of which mission to take on based on the title of the mission only. The dialogue is well-written, which is normal for Rockstar, but after GTAIV I reserve judgment on the story until I’ve completed more of it.

I’m mostly enjoying it so far, but it’s showing its vintage in a few ways:

  • The graphics are really rough. It definitely feels like an upscaled PS2 port.
  • There are loading screens everywhere.
  • You can fail missions without knowing what you’ve done, and there are no mid-mission checkpoints.
  • You have to go to specific locations to save.

It has some promising characters, a decent setup in this idea of a boarding school, with all of the built-in ecosystem that a school contains, and the promise of a wider world to open up later in the form of the surrounding town.

While I continue to work on Bully, and prior to next weeks’ arrival and interruption of the backlog process with Dead Space 2, I’ll get the voting for round two going. I’ll include the two write-ins from the previous vote, and let you choose the next game on my plate. Here it is:

I’ll leave the poll in the sidebar from now until the next game gets started.

It’s general wisdom that you shouldn’t mess with a known classic, usually for one of the following reasons:

  • The game is so good that any attempts to improve upon it will merely fail.
  • The game is so bad that it was merely tolerated, even if people have fond memories of it. Don’t mess with nostalgia.

Thankfully, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (or PMCEDX for short—if you can call it short) isn’t a retread of old game mechanics, and it’s not the old Pac-Man game shoehorned into flashier graphics. It’s not even the previously-released and also-awesome Pac-Man Championship Edition in a new package.

PMCEDX is a whole new game, I love it, and you should too.

You can boil the basic gameplay of Pac-Man down to a few simple concepts:

  • Eat dots to clear the board.
  • Get chased by ghosts who try to reach your position at all times.
  • Eat power pellets to change ghosts and eat them to huge points.

What PMCEDX does, is take these gameplay concepts and crank them up using a little Geometry Wars-style sound and flashiness. As in Pac-Man Championship Edition, you are eating dots on each half of the board to clear it. When you clear one half of the board, a fruit appears in the other half. Eat the fruit, and the maze on the cleared side regenerates, with a new maze layout and refreshed dots and power pellets.

Easy enough, right?

In the basic Championship Mode, there are also “sleeping” ghosts (you can see them as green in the shot above). When you pass them, they wake up and then begin to follow you in a line that trails behind you and constantly tracks you. When you finally do grab a power pellet, you can turn around and immediately begin tearing into the ghosts behind you, creating very long chains of point values, up to 3200 points for each ghost you eat.

What makes it challenging is trying to find just the right path to take to maximize the ghost eating and improve your score. In the base game, you have only five minutes to score as many points as possible and end up on the leaderboards. You’re given lives, but the score you rack up will take care of that problem—and that’s if you get touched by a ghost when you play. You’re also given bombs that will get you out of a tight spot, like when a ghost has you cornered (because the four normal ghosts are out in addition to the conga line behind you). They’ll bounce the ghosts away, but the downside is that they will bounce the ghosts away, which stops your chain and makes you waste precious seconds not building the chain behind you or destroying the ghosts by turning the tables.

The time limit, the increasing speed of the game as you play, and the pumped house-style music all combine to create tension and provide pressure to do better each successive time you play the game.

There’s something really endearing about games where the only enemy is yourself. You know how the game plays, you know what a good score is thanks to the leaderboards, and you know each time you lose that if you’d shaved that one corner a little faster or you hadn’t had to juke out that one ghost, you could have scored just a bit higher.

And if you mess up, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Restart and try again.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has been dispatched and moved out of the Pile of Shame—so now it’s time to make good on this little experiment and bring it up for a vote: what am I playing next? While I clean up Achievements in AC2 and AC:B (almost at 33k now), please to be voting on the next game I tackle out of the backlog, from these choices:

(You may feel free to write-in and organize your own write-in campaign in the comments. I surrender control of this process to you, the reader. Voting ends on Friday night.)

This is heavily action-oriented, but in future polls we’ll get to something meatier. I fully expect that there will be a role-playing game throwdown or two at some juncture of this process. I am keeping these options light because Dead Space 2 arrives at my doorstep on the 25th of this month, and based on the early reviews it is something not to be missed.

As to this, my anticipation knows few limits. The first game was about lifeforms that spring from and then reshape the corpses of the previous inhabitants of a cold and sparsely-lit gigantic spaceship. The idea and the execution I found quite morbid and creepy, peppered with those kinds of “jump” moments that make you turn around when you turn the lights out in the room. Now these things of nightmares have been given an entire city to roam about in. I believe I will be experiencing more than my usual dose of fight-or-flight at the end of this month, and I sincerely do not want to miss it.

(Yes, I am aware I missed a day in the post-a-day challenge. Everyone in my house—and I do mean everyone—is sick. Sorry about that.)