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Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team (batting team) are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team (fielding team) is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate (the place where the player started as a batter). The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.
The first objective of the batting team is to have a player reach first base safely. A player on the batting team who reaches first base without being called "out" can attempt to advance to subsequent bases as a runner, either immediately or during teammates' turns batting. The fielding team tries to prevent runs by getting batters or runners "out", which forces them out of the field of play. Both the pitcher and fielders have methods of getting the batting team's players out. The opposing teams switch back and forth between batting and fielding; the batting team's turn to bat is over once the fielding team records three outs. One turn batting for each team constitutes an inning. A game is usually composed of nine innings, and the team with the greater number of runs at the end of the game wins. If scores are tied at the end of nine innings, extra innings are usually played. Baseball has no game clock, although most games end in the ninth inning.
Baseball evolved from older bat-and-ball games already being played in England by the mid-18th century. This game was brought by immigrants to North America, where the modern version developed. By the late 19th century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball is popular in North America and parts of Central and South America, the Caribbean, and East Asia, particularly in Japan and South Korea.
In the United States and Canada, professional Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL), each with three divisions: East, West, and Central. The MLB champion is determined by playoffs that culminate in the World Series. The top level of play is similarly split in Japan between the Central and Pacific Leagues and in Cuba between the West League and East League. The World Baseball Classic, organized by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, is the major international competition of the sport and attracts the top national teams from around the world.
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.Prior to 1969, the team with the best regular season win-loss record in each league automatically advanced to the World Series; since then each league has conducted a championship series (ALCS and NLCS) preceding the World Series to determine which teams will advance. As of 2017, the World Series has been contested 113 times, with the AL winning 65 and the NL winning 48.
The 2017 World Series took place between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. Seven games were played, with the Astros victorious after game seven, played in Los Angeles. This was the first World Series won by the Astros.
In the American League, the New York Yankees have played in 40 World Series and won 27, the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics have played in 14 and won 9, and the Boston Red Sox have played in 12 and won 8, including the first World Series. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals have appeared in 19 and won 11, the New York/San Francisco Giants have played in 20 and won 8, the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers have appeared in 19 and won 6, and the Cincinnati Reds have appeared in 9 and won 5.
As of 2017, no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999, and 2000—the longest such drought in Major League Baseball history.