NEW YORK -- For the first time ever, Major League Baseball will play regular season games in London. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will meet in the first London Series this weekend for a two-game set.
"We're expanding the game. Whatever we have to do to do that, we'll do," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters, including Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, earlier this week. The London Series is part of MLB's initiative to grow the game globally.
This is the fourth of four series that will be played outside the United States (and Toronto) this year. The Athletics and Mariners opened the season in Tokyo, then the Astros and Angels, and Cardinals and Reds, played series in Monterrey, Mexico.
Here are the details for the two-game London Series:
|Date||Start Time||Starting Pitchers||TV|
Sat., June 29
1:10 p.m. ET (6:10 p.m. in London)
Sun., June 30
10:10 a.m. ET (3:10 p.m. in London)
TBA vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (8-4, 4.87)
Saturday's game is available streaming on fuboTV (try for free).
The Yankees and Red Sox both traveled to London following their Wednesday afternoon games, and the players have Thursday to themselves as an off-day. Both teams will have workouts Friday before playing the games Saturday and Sunday. Also, MLB has several clinics and events scheduled throughout the trip that will involve each personnel from each team.
"Try to make it as normal as possible once Friday rolls around," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said about separating the pomp and circumstance of the trip with the important baseball matters. "But I'm not worried about these guys being able to compartmentalize the different things that come at you, exciting or annoying. We'll handle it. We'll be ready to go."
While speaking with WEEI's Tom Caron, Cora added: "Obviously it's an important series. It's not vacation. I've been telling people, we've got business to do over there. We're chasing the Yankees right now and those two games are important."
Here are 10 things you need to know heading into this weekend's historic London Series.
1. The Red Sox will be the home team, but ...
... both teams will wear their home uniforms. To help market the game, MLB wants the Yankees wearing their icon home white pinstripes. This is nothing new. When the Yankees played the (Devil) Rays in Japan in 2004, they wore their home uniforms despite being the road team. The Red Sox, meanwhile, will wear their home white jerseys one day and their red jerseys the next. Boston is the home team for both games though. They will bat in the bottom half of each inning.
2. The ballpark dimensions are cozy
This weekend's games will be played at London Stadium, an open-air facility originally built for the 2012 Olympics. It is currently home to the West Ham United Football Club. MLB tweeted out some photos of the field earlier this week:
Don't worry, they are painting logos along the baselines that will make the field a little less bland. It is a turf field, similar to what is in place at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. And yes, that is all foul territory. They're not going to squeeze in extra seats on the field.
As for the dimensions, the playing field will be 330 feet down both lines, and only 385 feet to center field. There will be a 16-foot wall in center, however. I assume it will be a standard eight-foot wall elsewhere. Point is, it is a cozy playing field. These two games could be a dinger fest.
"I don't mind that at all," Aaron Judge joked about the center field dimensions.
3. MLB is bringing a few ballpark gimmicks
Major League Baseball is bringing more than the Yankees and Red Sox to London this weekend. Jim Small, MLB's vice president of international business, told ESPN's Marly Rivera there will be a version of the Nationals' Presidents Race during the London games. From Rivera:
"We're going to do a race, the way it's done with the presidents at Nationals Park," Jim Small, senior vice president of Major League Baseball's international business, told ESPN. "What we did is we ran a contest with our social media and those were the four winners, and they're going to race. That shows the wonderful humor that exists there."
The four social media winners Small referenced? Those would be Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII, and the Loch Ness Monster. Yes, for real. The Nationals hold the Presidents Race in the middle of the fourth inning and I assume the same will be true this weekend. Also making the trip: The Freeze. The be-spandex-ed racer who makes his home at SunTrust Park in Atlanta will also appear during the London Series, according to Rivera.
As for the Yankees and Red Sox, some personal touches from their ballparks will make the trip to London. The grounds crew will dance to YMCA like they do following the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium, and "Sweet Caroline" will be played in the eighth inning like it is at Fenway Park.
4. Fans are getting neat giveaways
You can tell MLB wants to make a good first impression in London because the league commissioned bobbleheads that actually look like the players. Fans in attendance will receive Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton bobbleheads throughout the weekend. Check it out:
Those are pretty, pretty cool.
5. The weather should be great
This weekend's forecast is spectacular. It will be clear and sunny Saturday, with temperatures pushing 90 degrees. The ball might really fly out of the park that day. As for Sunday, the forecast calls for some clouds -- but no rain, most importantly -- with temperatures in the mid-to-high 70s. That makes for a great day at the ballpark.
Fans won't have to worry about that London fog this weekend. The weather for these two games will be just dandy.
6. Each team gets a 26th man
As is always the case when teams play overseas, the Yankees and Red Sox will play with a 26-man roster this weekend. They're allowed 13 pitches and 13 position players, and can bring two others on the trip in case there is an injury and a roster move is needed. Each team's traveling party will include 28 players.
Here are the extra players, as announced by each team.
- Red Sox: 1B Sam Travis (C Oscar Hernandez and RHP Hector Velazquez as the extras)
- Yankees: IF Thairo Estrada (C Kyle Higashioka and RHP Chance Adams as the extras)
Mike Tauchman. The Yankees originally planned to keep Stanton active through the London Series, in which case they surely would've called up an extra outfielder. Instead, Stanton goes on the injured list, clearing the way for Estrada to make the trip.and replaced on the roster by outfielder
7. The Yankees will use an opener Sunday
London fans will get a taste of the opener this weekend. Officially, the Yankees have Sunday's starter listed as TBA. Boone confirmed the team will use an opener that day, however. In all likelihood it will be hard-throwing righty Chad Green -- Green has all seven "opens" for the Yankees this year -- with finesse lefty Nestor Cortes following out of the bullpen.
The Yankees are a perfect 7-0 when using an opener this year and the Green/Cortes tandem has been especially good the last few times out. Here are the combined numbers for Green and Cortes in their last four tag team starts:
June 9 vs. Indians
June 15 vs. White Sox
June 20 vs. Astros
June 25 vs. Blue Jays
That works out to a 2.42 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. Remember, the Yankees are currently without Luis Severino (shoulder, lat), Domingo German (hip), and Jonathan Loaisiga (shoulder). The Green/Cortes tandem is essentially the Yankees' eighth starter, and they're giving them excellent results.
The Yankees could have started J.A. Happ (on two extra days of rest) or CC Sabathia (on one extra day of rest) on Sunday, but will instead use the extra off-days to give their veteran starters a nice long breather in the middle of the season. Considering how well the Green/Cortes tandem has performed, why not?
"With these off-days we thought it was a good time to get him -- all of our guys -- a little extra time," Boone said.
8. This starts a long road trip for Boston
The Yankees have it pretty good this weekend. They just wrapped up a 10-game homestand, then head to London for two games this weekend, then go right back to New York for a two-game interleague road series with the Mets. The Yankees will get to sleep in their own beds.
The Red Sox aren't as lucky. The London games are the first two games of an eight-game road trip that takes them right up to the All-Star break. Boston's next home game is July 12. Two games in London, three games in Toronto, three games in Detroit. It is a logistical nightmare, as Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic explains:
"Travel, what types of plane we were using, where we were flying into. Do we have to send the equipment through customs, or do we not have to send it through customs?" (clubhouse manager Tommy) McLaughlin said. "Will guys have to bring their (own) luggage through customs? Things we're not used to doing when we travel in the states."
With so much extra equipment in tow, as well as extra team personnel traveling to London, the team will be using a bigger plane to fly overseas. In the eight seasons since McLaughlin became the team's home clubhouse manager, it will be the most challenging logistical trip yet.
Cora told reporters, including the Boston Globe's Alex Speier, he is more worried about his team's stamina and physical readiness for the series in Toronto and Detroit than the series in London. Because his team will return to New York, Boone believes the Yankees will be in good shape despite the long travel and time change.
"Not overly concerned just because of the days off built in around it," Boone said Wednesday. "Two going into the (series) and then one behind it, and gaining hours coming back. We'll essentially get back Sunday night and have the entire off-day Monday. I feel like we're protected on both sides of it pretty well ... With the off-days, I feel like we'll be fine."
9. The Yankees hold the season series edge
This will be the third series of the season between the Yankees and Red Sox. They've played five games to date, all at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees winning four of five. Here are the individual results:
- April 16: NYY 8, BOS 0 (box score)
- April 17: NYY 5, BOS 3 (box score)
- May 31: NYY 4, BOS 1 (box score)
- June 1: NYY 5, BOS 3 (box score)
- June 2: BOS 8, NYY 5 (box score)
These two teams also had a game rained out on May 30. That game will be made up as part of a day/night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 3. To date, the season series between the Yankees and Red Sox has been very one-sided in New York's favor. Does that mean anything going into the London Series? Not really, each series is its own little story.
10. These games are much more important for the Red Sox
Oh by the way, these two games count. They are meaningful regular season games between division rivals. And, given the current AL East standings, these two games are much more important to the Red Sox. Forget about winning the AL East. To have any chance at reaching the postseason, even as the second wild-card team, the Red Sox have to start winning these head-to-head games.
Here are the AL East standings as of Friday morning:
- Yankees: 52-28
- Rays: 46-35 (6 1/2 GB)
- Red Sox: 44-38 (9 GB)
- Blue Jays: 29-52 (23.5 GB)
- Orioles: 22-58 (30 GB)
The Red Sox need to win these games to start climbing back into the race. The Yankees? These two games are a chance to further bury their biggest rival and one of their chief competitors. They're not going to take their foot off the gas.
Might as well close with a prediction, because why not? The official CBS Sports prediction for this weekend: Yankees sweep. In Tanaka and the Green/Cortes tandem, you could argue New York will have its two best starters on the mound, plus the Yankees have an enormous advantage in the bullpen. And, with Judge back and Encarnacion added, the Yankees' lineup bludgeons bad pitching and wears down good pitching. The Yankees are a dangerous squad right now and the Red Sox can't seem to get out of their own way. New York will come back home two wins fatter Monday.