London Series 2024 Primer: Reflecting on the Cubs v Cardinals

MLB returns to London during the weekend of 8-9 June with two giants of the game, the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. Thousands of fans will travel across the Atlantic for a two-game series of immense importance in the NL East, which is currently led by the Phillies with the best winning record in MLB.

Limited tickets are still available, but with crowds of 60,000 anticipated, both days are expected to sell out. Keep your fingers crossed for dry weather.

In 2019, we enjoyed the Yankees v Red Sox in the first-ever MLB game in Europe, and last year we witnessed the first-ever NL contest on European soil. And what a contest it was!

Game 1: Chicago Cubs 9-1 St Louis Cardinals

For the 466th time in Cardinals’ colours over an illustrious 18-year career, St Louis legend Adam Wainwright took the ball, and much to the relief of everyone except Cubs fans, he immediately delivered a sharp one-two-three inning.

However, at the start of the second inning, Ian Happ took the veteran pitcher deep to register the first NL home run in Europe. A feat that was predicted by none other than Liverpool Trojans legend, Ian Blease.

Nick Madrigal doubled the lead later in the inning by driving in Christopher Morel.

Deja vu at the top of the third inning when Ian Happ again took Adam Wainwright deep to register the second NL home run in Europe.

Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger scored to increase the margin to 5-0 before Mike Tauchman and Seiya Suzuki drove in runs to make it 7-0 in the fourth inning.

Fun fact 1: Mike Tauchman has appeared in all four London Series games. In 2019, he had two at-bats and struck out both times. In 2023, he went 1-for-8 with a double, a run, an RBI and two strikeouts.

Cubs starter Justin Steele had the Cardinals’ number all day, with the only damage coming from a Paul Goldschmidt single, which drove in Tommy Edman.

Fun fact 2: Justin Steele holds the record for the best pitching performance across the four London Series games: six innings, eight strikeouts, and one earned run.

With 32 goals in 90 international appearances, USA soccer star Mallory Swanson has proven ability to take advantage when opponents are struggling, so it was fitting that her husband, Cubs’ shortstop, Dansby, finished proceedings with a ninth-inning home run off Drew VerHagen.

Game 2: Chicago Cubs 5-7 St Louis Cardinals

For all of the excitement of the three previous London Series games, we had not experienced a tight scoreline. And when the Cubs posted four runs in the first inning, and starter Marcus Stroman kept the Cardinals off the board, it felt like this might be another one-sided Cubs win.

Fortunately, for the neutral (and the mass of Cardinals fans), St Louis scored three times in the second inning to show more intent than they had the previous day.

The opening run was a nightmare for those of us who contend with arguments against British “sports” fans dismissing the skill of baseball players when Trey Mancini failed to barehand catch a simple toss from Nico Hoerner for a routine out at first.

The Cardinals bomb-detonating rookie, Jordan Walker, extended his hitting streak to 15 games, during which the 21-year-old had a .385 batting average with 1.131 OPS. This season, Walker was optioned to the minors in late April after hitting .155 (.497 OPS) in his first 20 games – life comes at you quickly.

Fun fact 3: At 111.1 MPH, Walker’s single that drove in Lars Nootbaar to tie the score 4-4 was the hardest-hit ball we have seen in any London Series games. The second hardest-hit ball was also by the Cardinals’ designated hitter at 110.4 MPH.

Very quickly, 4-4 became 7-4 when Nootbaar turned provider and, along with Goldschmidt and Nolan Gorman, drove in a trio of tuns

Fun fact 4: Earlier in the year, Lars Nootbaar won the Baseball World Classic and became the first non-native-born player to represent Japan. His full name is Lars Taylor-Tatsuji Nootbaar with a Japanese mother and an American father.

In the ninth inning, Nick Madrigal launched a long double off flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks before the closer blew 103 MPH past Yan Gomes. It was the hardest pitch ever witnessed at the London Stadium. Hicks’ erratic nature frequently makes games interesting, and a wild pitch followed by Hoerner connecting with the second-fastest pitch seen in London brought the score to 7-5 with two out.

The excitement was shortlived as Hicks secured the save, another first in a London Series.

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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