Call It Wrigley Transatlantic; No Lead is Safe in London

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Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball following the first of 2 games to be played in London. After each team put up 6 runs in the first, the Yankees built a huge lead and had to hang on for a 17–13 win. Tomorrow’s game will air at 10 AM US Eastern Time, so you can enjoy breakfast and baseball.

The Yankees’ broadcaster John Sterling kept calling it the craziest game he had ever called. His career began in 1982 with the Braves. 3 years before that, on May 17, 1979 with the wind howling out of Wrigley Field, the Phillies and Cubs indulged in the kind of game that ended in London a couple of hours ago. On that May day 40 years ago, the Phillies put up 7 in the first only to have the Cubs answer with 6 in their half. The Phillies built a lead of 21–7 only to have the Cubs knot it at 22-22 apiece. That game took 10 innings before Mike Schmidt won it with a solo shot in the Phillies’ half of the 10th. Mercifully, when the Yankees built up their lead, they managed to barely hang onto it. Each team scored 6 times in the first inning, sending starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Rick Porcello to the showers. Michael Chavis tied it with a 3-run home run after Aaron Hicks had hit the Yankees’ first home run in England in the top half. Had the Red Sox immediately taken the play to the Yankees as they did repeatedly last season, this article would take a different turn. But this is the year when an amazingly battered Yankee team can still hold a substantial lead in the American League’s toughest division. The Red Sox turned to Steven Wright from their bull pen. the knuckleballer had been suspended for 80 games for using PED’s. The long layoff made him the freshest man among the Red Sox bull pen, all of whom have been used hard due to the ineffectiveness of or injuries to their starters. Brett Gardner launched a 2-run shot in the third and Aaron Judge homered in a 6-run 4th to give the visiting Yankees a lead they would never relinquish. While their bats were quiet after the 5th inning, a furious rally by the Red Sox fell short. The Sox didn’t score again until they put up 1 in the 6th and 6 in the 7th to make the game as close as it ever got. The winners put up 19 hits while the Red Sox put up 18. One was a bases-loaded, 3-run double by D.J. LeMahieu who added to his league-leading .336 batting average with 4 more hits. Chavis managed a second 3-run home run for Boston but it wasn’t close to enough. In this kind of game where no pitcher covered himself with glory, the official scorer could have declared Aroldis Chapman the winning pitcher, but he went with the convention and gave the win to Chad Green though he gave up 4 hits in 2 innings of work.

The game was held at London Stadium, normally the home of the Hammers, London’s West Ham United soccer team. Playing on a converted soccer field, some issues were obvious before the first pitch was thrown. Dead center field, which should be from 400 to 420 feet away was a hitter-friendly 385 feet. Putting up a 16-foot wall (which the organizers did) would deter single A or AA hitters, but big leaguers, particularly those of the Aaron Judge variety laugh at such attempts to stop them. The ball zipped over the grass the way it used to when Houston and St. Louis among others brought astro turf to baseball in the sixties and seventies. Those issues were expected. Nobody considered the problems outfielders would have picking up the ball against the white seats and the white shirts worn by British sport fans. Stadium builders in this country know the need for what is called a “batter’s eye” but such a thing didn’t exist at the site of today’s game. With tomorrow’s game starting 3 hours earlier than today’s game did, particularly if the fans get a sunny day, it could contribute to players losing balls in the sun as they did in the early portion of today’s game. One positive about the fine weather was that almost 60,000 fans attended the first baseball game ever played across the Atlantic. It didn’t hurt that today’s game took place before_ the start of the Wimbledon tennis tournament which begins on Monday. Until recently, the 4th of July weekend marked the finish of the fortnight-long tournament. That began to change in the last decade, and now the entire tournament is played in July. Going against Wimbledon I doubt such a massive crowd could have been expected for what is to the British at best a novelty event. As events turned out, the crowd of 60,000 was very nearly a full house since the stadium can hold 66,000. The two teams have a hard act to follow in just over 13 hours.

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