Tag: London Series

Stray observations from Yankees-Red Sox in London

Still rooting for Brighton, but this was cool. (Steven Tydings)

Over 118,000 people attended Yankees-Red Sox in London this weekend as a surreal and exciting introduction to European baseball. With that in the books, here are some stray observations from the grounds in London.

London Stadium was not close to a Red Sox home game: That was obvious going in, but even more obvious when the games were actually going down. There was a Red Sox contingent in the stadium, but the crowds seemed more Yankees-centric than otherwise. However, the neutral London fans made for the peculiar ambiance of an exhibition, which Adam Ottavino intimated.

The Saturday crowd for Game 1 was rowdier, which you expect with the later start. It was a nice change of pace to see vendors selling mixed drinks in the seats — if you’re into that sort of thing — but there was no seventh inning cutoff. Still, I didn’t witness any violence in the seats, no hooliganery or whatever stereotypes you expect.

This will be a cool trivia question in 10 years (Steven Tydings)

The short walls weren’t what created offense: Contrary to expectations, London Stadium didn’t play that small. Sure, there were a couple wall scrapers, but plenty of no-doubters, too, and no more cheapies than the average Yankees or Red Sox home game.

Instead, the real offense-inducing factor was the turf. It played fast! They were hosing it down before the game and it didn’t help enough. It played faster than either Tropicana Field or Rogers Centre turf. That made hard hit grounders nearly a sure thing to get through and balls to the outfield rough.

Therefore, it’s not hard to see why Andrew Benintendi didn’t play the last 12 innings of the series or why the Yankees wanted Mike Tauchman in there for Aaron Judge. Brett Gardner had one routine single in front of him where he got on a knee to keep it from getting behind him.

Breaking balls didn’t have the normal bite on them Saturday. There was speculation that it had something to do with the atmosphere, but it may have just been a fluke with the heat. It was hot and humid, over 90 degrees, so manipulating the ball on the sweltering turf had to have been difficult.

The Freeze, Mascot Race and more: I am generally indifferent to between-inning entertainment, yet London had the right feel. I’m a sucker for watching The Freeze turn fans into fools, though seeing him lose on the first night was disappointing.

The mascot race was exactly as silly as it was supposed to be. Wouldn’t have minded the Loch Ness Monster winning, but you take what you can get. I’m gonna put out a hot take: The Yankees should have a mascot or mascot race. I’d stick in my seats at attention to watch that, even if it doesn’t fit the organization at all.

Anyway, having 60,000 people engaged in a baseball game was great. Can the Cardinals and Cubs keep it up next year? And whatever teams go over third? After London has had a couple turns, I’d like to see games in Paris or Amsterdam, though the latter has the better baseball culture.

Look, a Bunt!: The Daily Telegraph posted what was essentially a “Dummies Guide to Baseball” on Saturday and it was hilarious for the baseball fluent among us.

They did accurately describe the downtime in America’s Pastime.

“One spectator’s boredom is another’s ecstatic rumination” may be the best summation of baseball I’ve seen.

Didi and Hicks looking like themselves: I was getting wildly worried about Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks and then they went all supernova in the last week.

Before last week, Didi was hitting a meager .220/.235/.300 (37 wRC+) and now has a .280/.319/.449 (102 wRC+) mark after posting four straight multi-hit games and hitting a pair of homers. He just loks himself. His strikeouts are up — same for everone — but he looks more like himself at the plate … and oh my goodness can he still field and throw! He’s a two-way difference maker.

Meanwhile, Hicks didn’t quite boost his line as dramatically as Didi, but he came through with some clutch hits — first home run in London, double in Game 2 — and had two hits in both games, his first time doing that in back-to-back games this year.

Handshakes and happiness (Steven Tydings)

The Yankees have their largest AL East lead since 2012 … and with that comes a fair amount of caution. This team has oodles of talent on offense and in the bullpen, enough to carry a shaky rotation. Still, that 2012 precedent is one to remember.

The Bombers that year held a 10-game lead in the AL East on July 18 heading into a western swing and were swept in four games by the A’s, each by one run. That led to a brief swoon and allowed Baltimore to eventually tie up the race in September.

Brian Cashman may add a starter or two in the next month, but even still, the team can’t take the foot off the gas. Bulldoze the Red Sox, steamroll the Rays and turn the division into a laugher.

Are the Red Sox in real trouble? I’m having a tough time getting a read on this. On one hand, their offense is a little banged up and their bullpen could use 3-4 more arms. However, they’re still right in the thick of the wild-card chase with the teams around them — Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Texas — all on shaky ground.

Even if the A’s put together another second-half surge like last year, I still see Boston making it to the Wild Card Game. The division? That’s getting out of their grasp, but I still expect October baseball for the Sox.

London Series: 26th Men, Field Dimensions & Mascots

(Creative Commons)

The Yankees and Red Sox are playing the first MLB games in London this weekend. The two games will take place at London Stadium, which was used for track & field during the 2012 Olympics and is now a soccer stadium.

Here’s the non-Red Sox-related news you may want to know before the weekend:

Starters and Roster Rules

The starters have been announced for this weekend’s two games and are as follows:

Saturday (1 p.m. EDT): Masahiro Tanaka vs. Rick Porcello
Sunday (10 a.m. EDT): Opener (Presumably Chad Green) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez

Yup, the Yankees are bringing the opener to London. It’s 7-0 for the Bombers in the States.

As for the rosters, each team will be allowed a 26th man and will also take a two-man taxi squad in case they need to make a roster change mid-series. With Giancarlo Stanton going on the IL, the Yankees called up Mike Tauchman as their 25th man. Here’s the extra men for both teams.

26th men: INF Thairo Estrada (NYY), 1B/OF Sam Travis (BOS)
Taxi Squad: RHP Chance Adams and C Kyle Higashioka (NYY), COscar Hernandez and RHP Hector Velazquez (BOS)

FYI, both of the 26th men are position players because the teams are only allowed to have 13 pitchers and 13 position players.

Embed from Getty Images

How the Field Will Play

OK, so this is where things get a little weird. The stadium wasn’t built with baseball in mind (London was the first Summer Olympics in a while without baseball), so MLB is working with what it could get. The games are happening in June because that was when they had the stadium open during the season with ample time to convert it for baseball.

The walls down the lines are a pretty standard 330 ft. A little too much for this blog (yuck, yuck) but perfectly fine. However, it’ll be just 385 ft to center field. Baseball has tried to make up for it by putting a 16 ft wall there, but this is going to be home run city, U.K. I feel sorry for the baseballs.

There are two factors that may suppress offense: 1. There’s oodles of foul territory. Oakland Coliseum levels of foul territory. Mark Teixeira would have a field day. 2. The center field seats are white. That will not be a great batter’s eye for hitters, though if the game is sold out and everyone’s in their seats, that may not be an issue.

Embed from Getty Images

Odds and Ends

The Freeze is coming over from Atlanta! As someone who hasn’t been to the Braves’ taxpayer-funded stadium, I’m quite exciting. If you’re unfamiliar with The Freeze, he’s the track runner who clowns Braves fans in a foot race every game at Suntrust Park. It’s beautiful.

Also, MLB wanted to do a British version of the assorted mascot races that are around baseball (Presidents Race in DC, Perogis in Pittsburgh, Sausages in Milwaukee, etc.).

What famous Brits is MLB turning into mascots? Henry VIII, Freddie Mercury, Winston Churchill and, of course, the Loch Ness Monster. Fun? Maybe!

I personally love whenever they play baseball games in foreign lands. Give me all the series in Japan, Australia, the D.R. and England. At the very least, having 10 a.m. baseball Sunday is like the Wimbledon finals at 9 a.m. I’ll take my elite sporting events with my tea and eggs. Hope y’all enjoy it as well!

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