London Series A Big Success As Yanks Sweep The Red Sox  07/01/2019 14:38:34 
Britain Red Sox Yankees Baseball

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox line up for the national anthems before Sunday's 12-8 New York win in London Stadium (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)


The London Series was nothing less than a rousing success for almost everyone as Major League Baseball firmly established a toehold on the European continent where the sport at the highest professional level had never been played.

The two games at London Stadium, a soccer pitch revamped to play baseball, drew 118,718. 

With Commissioner Rob Manfred stating that 70% of the tickets were sold locally, all those new fans saw a total of 50 runs on 65 hits, more scoring than in a month of soccer matches.

The crowds stayed long and stayed late, leaving the building Saturday night only when the public address announcer told fans to mind the train schedules as the game went an unwieldy 4 hours, 42 minutes.

Both teams were even paid a pregame clubhouse visit by the Royals, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

On the field, the big winners between two fierce rivals was  the New York Yankees. The losers were the Boston Red Sox, whose pitching staff was mauled by the Bronx Bombers for most of the weekend. The Red Sox now stand 11 games behind the first-place Yanks in the American League East spinning toward the All-Star break.

But even Red Sox manager Alex Cora had to place the event in a broader context.

Aside for what happened on the field, it was outstanding, he said after his club lost Sundays back end of the two games, 12-8. It was great for baseball. The atmosphere was amazing. What we witnessed here was great. The atmosphere. The passion. It was fun. I hope it happens more than twice.

MLB is already slated to come back to London next June 14-15 with two games between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, another classic rivalry.

Beyond that, there are no plans, although Manfred made it clear before the game on Saturday that this is only the beginning for MLB in Europe.

My own view is that I would like to have sustained play in Europe, he said. Im thrilled to be in London. Im glad were coming back next year. Id like to be back after that. But Im also interested in having us play in other cities in Europe. All of that will have to be worked out with the MLBPA.

What everyone learned staging these two games will certainly apply next year.

The fact is, the synthetic FieldTurf surface played like a pool table and there was no real way to defense against it. Both teams tried to narrow the gaps by situating their three outfielders closer together, leaving space down the lines.

But once the ball was smacked out there, it was at the fence in a matter of seconds. There were 11 doubles between the two teams this weekend.

Its the first time the Yankees and Red Sox have ever played on artificial turf, said long-time Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. And Im sure its the last time well ever play on artificial turf.

The results were an abnormal version of the game the teams usually play at either Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. It was entertaining, but hardly true baseball.

Game time temperature in a stadium where the wind currents are often stagnant could have been an issue. On Saturday, it was an unseasonably warm 90 degrees, a more reasonable 74 for the start of Sunday's game.

No matter. Aside from Sundays Boston starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, pitching into the sixth inning, the Red Sox and their bullpen hardly had an answer for the conditions. The bullpen allowed 21 of New Yorks 29 runs.

The dimensions around the field were short and the ball carried, the two teams combining to hit nine home runs, the Yanks extending their record to 31 consecutive games during which theyve hit a least one homer.

Cora said he spoke to his pitchers about the perception that breaking pitches werent dropping, the ball hanging out over the plate.

On Saturday, starters Rick Porcello for the Red Sox and Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees both were knocked out in the first inning as each team scored six runs.

But Cora said his team had no excuses. The defending World Series champions started the season with a decidedly sour note on the west coast of the U.S. and have yet to straighten things out.

Thats a very good offensive team, we know that, Cora said about the Yankees. Theyre a lot better than last year. The attention for detail is phenomenal. Theyre paying attention to details and we have to clean up our details. The last two days were eye-opening from top to bottom.

Im just talking about stuff the game will dictate. Moves scream at people. And its right there. Throughout the evening I was looking, and I saw it. And right now theyre a lot better than us.

A set of games and events work on so many different levels. Theres no explicable reason for virtually the same Boston team  sans two important bullpen pieces in Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly  to be playing so much worse than last year.

But its an enigma in a huge matrix thats MLB.

Last year, the Yankees had a 100-win season, winning the top AL Wild Card spot, but finishing eight games behind the Red Sox, who easily dispatched their rivals in four AL Division Series games.

Anyone who recalls that 16-1, Game 3 thrashing the Red Sox handed the Yanks at Yankee Stadium last October, would be hard-pressed to say these were the same two teams playing each other this weekend.

Perhaps in name and uniform only.

But as Cashman said, its a great rivalry and it plays anywhere. And the English fans witnessed a little slice of it.

I dont think you can get any bigger than Yankee-Red Sox, he said. It was great to bring this rivalry over here. It was an awesome first step for baseball to introduce itself to Europe. And I know it will be an opportunity for the game to move forward when the next two teams come over next year.

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