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.