Union jacks: Yanks outslug Red Sox 17-13 in U.K.

ByColey Harvey via ESPN logo
Sunday, June 30, 2019

LONDON -- Apparently, there was only one way the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox felt they could introduce baseball to the United Kingdom: with runs -- plenty of them.

It took both teams very little time to flex their offensive power Saturday, plating a combined 12 runs by the end of the opening inning of this weekend's two-game series at London Stadium. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, it's the first time in the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry that both teams have scored six runs in the first inning of a series game.

Nearly five hours later, when it was all over, the Yankees had held on for a 17-13 victory in a game that featured 37 hits and no errors. Aroldis Chapman was the last of the 16 pitchers used by both teams to take the mound, nailing down the win on pitch No. 422.

"Scoring 30 runs," Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge said, "that's something I don't think I've ever been a part of, especially that first inning."

The game took 4 hours, 42 minutes -- the third-longest nine-inning game in MLB history. The two games that took longer also were Yankees-Red Sox games, with the record being 4:45 on Aug. 18, 2006.

"Felt like an exhibition, like a spectacle," Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino said of the night overall. "It just felt like a strange environment. We were trying to stay locked in on winning, and that's the only part of it that felt normal."

The scenes were similarly bizarre in certain parts of the stadium, as well, where a capacity crowd of 59,659 roamed the grounds. Concession Court stands ran out of bottled water, hot dogs and cheese for nachos by the third inning. Souvenir stands closed by the eighth.

A vendor told ESPN's Claire Smith: "There's nothing left."

Not everyone shared Ottavino's view on the strange nature of the game. Red Sox manager Alex Cora felt the atmosphere was good, even if the on-field product was a little more entertaining than he would've liked.

"Everybody did a good job keeping them entertained -- not only with the offensive output, but with the other stuff MLB and both teams put together for the fans," Cora said. "I've been in some international venues before, and that was impressive.

"Hopefully, [Sunday] is a more controlled game as far as runs scored and we give the people from London a close game. Those are cool, too."

When it came to the scoring, it was Aaron Hicks who seemingly broke the game wide open as he launched a 386-foot, two-run homer to the bleachers beyond the right-field wall in the top of the first. That made it 6-0 Yankees and ended Red Sox starter Rick Porcello's day.

"To be able to have the first home run here, that is something you people can never take from me," Hicks said in a postgame news conference, admitting he let the magnitude of the moment sink in as he rounded the bases. "I'm excited."

Boston battled back in the bottom half of the inning, with Michael Chavis tying the game at 6 with his 425-foot home run to center field. Deemed the short porch of this series, the wall to center is 385 feet away from home plate (and 16 feet tall) in what is traditionally a soccer stadium.

Chavis' homer was his first against the Yankees this season, after going 2-for-10 with an RBI in three previous games against them this year.

The Chavis long ball did to Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka what Hicks' blast did to Porcello: chased him from the game. Both pitchers combined to record only three outs, facing 15 batters. They also gave up a combined nine hits.

The batted balls Tanaka and Porcello gave up weren't cheap, either. According to Statcast data, hitters combined to register exit velocities of 94.7 mph off the pair in their brief outings. By comparison, league starters (including pitchers used as openers) had ceded average exit velocities of 89.2 mph entering Saturday's game.

"I have no excuse as far as my pitching goes," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "You just kind of have to tip your hat to the other team. I just wasn't efficient and didn't do my job out there."

Elias also reports that the combined three outs pitched by Porcello and Tanaka are the fewest ever by starters in a Yankees-Red Sox game. The previous combined low was five outs tossed by Bill Bevens (two outs) for the Yankees and Tommy Fine (three outs) for the Red Sox on May 11, 1947.

For the Yankees, the fireworks didn't stop there. Brett Gardner and Judge blasted two-run shots as the Yankees plated two in the third, six more in the fourth and three in the fifth for a 17-6 lead.

Boston made a run from there, with Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting a solo shot in the sixth and Chavin adding another three-run shot during a six-run seventh.

According to Caesars Sportsbook, the over/under entering Saturday's game was 11.5 runs. Chavis' first-inning homer cleared the over. Caesars has the over/under of Sunday's game on ESPN at 16.5.

Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu, who went 4-for-6 with five RBIs and two runs scored, said his teammates were messing with him on the bench about the pinball nature of Saturday's game. It reminded them of playing at Coors Field, a place notorious for high offensive outputs because of way the ball jumps off bats thanks to the high altitude.

LeMahieu spent the previous seven seasons playing for the Colorado Rockies prior to signing with New York in the offseason.

"[This] was kind of beyond a Coors Field game," LeMahieu said. "It was like something I've never been a part of."

The first inning took 58 minutes to play. By comparison, the teams played an entire game in 2 hours, 23 minutes on April 16 at Yankee Stadium -- the fastest game this season between the rivals, who are notorious for having played six-hour, extra-inning games in the past.

Well past the 2:23 mark and closing in on the three-hour mark, the teams finally notched their first 1-2-3 inning of the game. It came in the bottom of the fifth. Three more half-innings later in the game went as quickly, too.

This weekend's London Series marks the first visit by Major League Baseball to Europe.

As part of Saturday's pomp and circumstance, the duke and duchess of Sussex -- Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle -- participated in the pregame first-pitch ceremonies. The first pitches were thrown to Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and Red Sox starter Chris Sale by Invictus Games competitors.

The royal couple also met players and staff from both teams just before introductions were announced. Each team bestowed gifts to the duke and duchess. In the Yankees' case, a pinstriped shirt for the couple's newborn, Archie, was presented to them.

"Prince Harry said that if we win, he would let the baby wear the shirt," Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said. "I hope he remembers that."

Nerves set in for Cora during batting practice when he learned he would be meeting British royalty.

"I was so nervous, I was panicking," Cora said. "I almost asked for a translator. Instead of speaking in English to them, I almost spoke to them in Spanish. I was very nervous, but it was something special, unique, and I know the guys, I think they got video and all that stuff, so it was pretty cool."

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