Yankees, Red Sox stage run blitz as baseball makes history in London

London (AFP) –


The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox made Major League Baseball history as they marked the first game ever played in Europe with a home run barrage at the London Stadium on Saturday.

The Yankees are playing two regular-season games against their arch rivals Boston in the English capital and the opening night was a smash hit.

Records tumbled in the Yankees' 17-13 win, a four hour, 42 minute marathon that was just three minutes short of the longest nine-inning game in MLB history.

There was even a royal flavour to baseball's maiden voyage in England, with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan presented with gifts from both teams for their newborn son Archie while promoting the Invictus Games Foundation.

The royal couple were among a 59,659 sell-out crowd who watched the Yankees and Red Sox produce a remarkable score more suited to an NFL game at the home of Premier League club West Ham.

The run explosion was caused by the temporary astro-turf pitch playing fast, with a scorching hot evening and terrible pitching making it a hitters' paradise as both teams scored six runs in the opening inning of an MLB game for the first time in 30 years.

For the first time in the history of the Red Sox-Yankees' famous rivalry, both starting pitchers -- Boston's Rick Porcello and New York's Masahiro Tanaka -- were replaced in the first inning in a game that ranked as the second highest scoring clash between the clubs.

It was only the third game in MLB history in which both starters allowed six or more earned runs and didn't get out of the first inning.

In total, there were six home runs and 37 hits on a memorable night that will encourage MLB to believe baseball can gain a foothold in the UK market.

Although the league has previously staged matches in Japan, Australia, Mexico and Puerto Rico, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred hopes the 'London Series' will grow the sport's profile and open up a lucrative revenue stream already exploited by American Football's NFL and Basketball's NBA.

MLB has signed off on a two-game series between the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs back in London next July and Manfred would like to make it a longer-term arrangement.

"Whether or not we do it in 2021 will be a product of how the next two years go," Manfred told a pre-match press conference on Saturday.

"We would like to have sustained play in Europe. I'm thrilled to be in London. I'm glad to be coming back next year.

"I am interested in playing in other cities in Europe too. That will have to be worked out with the MLB Players Association.

"We had a number of teams in addition to the Cubs and Cardinals that were very interested in playing next year."

Manfred had picked wisely with the Yankees -- 27-time World Series winners and baseball's most famous team -- and the Red Sox -- the reigning World Series champions -- to spearhead their European venture.

Tickets sold out in 45 minutes and in the same way NFL fans treat the London games as a festival for the sport, the enthusiastic crowd in Stratford was made up of more than just Yankees and Red Sox supporters.

One of those was Peter Rusbridge, who had travelled from Manchester resplendent in his Chicago Cubs shirt.

"I've stayed up until three in the morning watching games on TV, so to finally see one in the flesh is incredible," he told AFP.

"There's a real hardcore starting to pick up on baseball (in England) and it's only going to get bigger after this."

With camera flashes all around the stadium, the Yankees' DJ LeMahieu drilled MLB's first hit in Europe and Luke Voit delivered the first run with an RBI double.

Aaron Hicks hit the first home run, blasting Porcello to centre-field for a two-run shot.

A three-run homer from Michael Chavis helped Boston draw level at 6-6.

Homers from Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge put the Yankees up 17-6 before Jackie Bradley Jr's homer and Chavis's second three-run shot closed the gap.

For a sport criticised for being too dull back in the States, the London run blitz provided baseball with a welcome jolt of adrenaline.