London Series 2024 Primer: Look back to the Yankees and Red Sox

The weekend of 8-9 June 2024 will see the nation’s capital transformed into baseball extravaganza central with the arrival of two of baseball’s iconic franchises: New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.

Thousands of MLB fans from the USA will join European baseball enthusiasts in witnessing just the fifth and sixth MLB games ever played in Europe.

How did we get here?

In 2019, in an event that I never thought I would see in my lifetime, MLB brought their two biggest juggernauts to London to play an unforgettable series of breathtaking baseball in blistering heat.

Game 1: New York Yankees 17-13 Boston Red Sox

A slugfest to scramble the minds of all baseball newbies. Aaron Hicks hit the first-ever home run in Europe by taking former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello deep in the first inning. Porcello was pulled after just one-third of an inning, and the Red Sox trailed 6-0 before they even had their first plate appearance.

Fun fact: Red Sox reliever Colten Brewer recorded the first strikeout on European soil when he punched out DJ LeMahieu in the first inning. It was LeMahieu’s second plate appearance, having previously scored the first-ever run in Europe

Anyone who thought this game was done and dusted as a competition was proved wrong when Yankees’ starter Masahiro Tanaka also failed to make it out of the first inning as the Red Sox tied the game 6-6. Simply amazing! Five years later and it is still difficult to comprehend that we had seen nearly an hour of play with the scores tied six apiece before the second inning.

Brett Gardner restored the Yankees lead, and they piled on in the fourth inning to take the score to 14-6 against the unfortunate Mike Shawaryn, who allowed eight earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox took a moustache-free Nestor Cortes Jr. deep twice, thanks to Jackie Bradley Jr. and Michael Chavis, to give the score an air of respectability. But eventually, after 4 hours and 42 minutes, Aroldis Chapman forced Sam Travis to ground into a double-play and bring one of the greatest sporting days I’ve witnessed to an end.

Game 2: New York Yankees 12-8 Boston Red Sox

It was a little difficult to pick myself up for Game 2 – that’s one of the reasons why I am a casual fan and not an MLB star. We did not see the same dramatic start as before, as Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez effortlessly picked up three outs in the first inning. #anticlimax

This time it was Boston’s turn to jump into the lead with a trio of home runs from Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Christian Vazquez. In the second inning, Edwin Encarnacion and Didi Gregorius scored to halve the deficit to 4-2 and then we didn’t see any more runs until the seventh inning.

Fun fact: In a two-game series of 65 hits and 50 runs, Edwin Encarnacion, who arrived in London as the AL’s leading home run hitter that season, went 1-for-10 with six strikeouts.

The atmosphere generated by near-equal numbers of opposing fans inside the former Olympic Stadium was unlike any other baseball game I can recall, and, as a neutral, it felt fair if the Red Sox fans had something to shout about. However, the prospect of a split series was destroyed by a nine-run seventh that saw DJ Le Mahieu score twice in the inning as the Yankees blew the game open 11-4.

To their credit, the Red Sox persevered to again bring a little respectability to the scoreline, but there was no doubt that London belonged to the Yankees – a fact that is still displayed today by one in 20 people walking around Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Centre wearing a NYY cap.

A crowd of nearly 120,000 over the two days justified MLB’s decision to bring these games to London. Commissioner Rob Manfred suffers a fair amount of abuse from fans, but part of his legacy will be these huge strides to establish an MLB foothold in Europe. Chapeau Bobby.

Make sure you check out the rest of our London Series 2024 primers

Article by @GavTramps. Look out for the Bat Flips & Nerds crew in London. We have Tom and Darius backstage getting content you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Puppet master John will pull the strings with incisive interviews and bamboozling vocabulary. Russell will bring world-class analysis into the discussion, Rachel (#properjournalist) is providing coverage for nationwide outlets, while Rob, Ben and the rest of us will be mingling with the crowds in Stratford and Trafalgar Square. Come and say “hi”.

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