Blimey! Many of those English across the pond were likely saying that after perhaps witnessing that weird American sport called baseball for the first time. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox just completed a two-game series in London—although even experts of the game would have a hard time explaining what happened.
New York won both games, but a total of 50 runs were scored by both teams combined in the series. The Yankees took Saturday's game 17-13, then followed the next day with a score of 12-8. It seemed like every batted ball found the outfield, rolled to the wall, or flew over it.
Saturday's first inning took an hour. The Yankees batted first, scored six runs, and knocked starting pitcher Rick Porcello around. He left after getting only one out. In the bottom of the inning, Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was able to get two outs, but he also gave up six runs, and the game was tied 6-6. Neither side would score in the second inning, New York would add two, six, and three runs in the next three frames for a 17-6 lead, but would hang on after Boston scored a run in the six inning and six in the seventh. When the smoke cleared, there were 30 runs and 37 hits. Imagine being at the game sitting with a British friend or relative. All you could say is “I swear it's not always like this.”
Let's also image you went back the next day. The Red Sox hit three home runs in the first inning for the first time in franchise history. The Yankees countered with two runs in the second, but the Red Sox were able to make that respectable 4-2 lead hold up until the seventh. The Yankees scored nine times. They added a single run in the eighth to go up 12-4, but in the bottom of the inning, Boston scored four times. They even got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but the Yankees held on. The final score was 12-8, with a total of 20 runs, 28 hits, and four errors. Let's just say, quoting Ricky Ricardo, there was a lot of 'splaining to do.
Instead of explanations, though, there's been a lot of head scratching. London Stadium was the site—a soccer stadium that was built for the 2012 Olympics. The re-configured field was only 385 feet from home plate to center field, but the other dimensions were similar to American ball parks. There was more foul territory than any American stadium, which should be more conducive to outs rather than runs. It was very hot in London, especially on Saturday. It was 92 degrees for the 6pm local start, but that didn't seem to be the reason for all the runs, either. London is at sea level, so you can't blame altitude like they do in Denver. So? What happened?
The pitching was horrible. Both teams, though, had two days off before playing the games. It seems like the Commissioner's office thought of everything. During Sunday's game, a working theory about what happened Saturday had something to do with either the air, or the stadium. Breaking balls didn't seem to break, or something like that.
Still, the baseball-uninitiated got to see plenty. There were no balks, but there were errors, infield flies, and double plays. The crowds were told before the games that if a foul ball came into the stands, they could keep it. That was a new concept to those who watch cricket matches, and there were plenty of shots of delighted fans examining their souvenirs thoroughly with smiles on their faces. Both games sold out, with crowds just under 60-thousand for each game. American parks aren't that big anymore, so it was the largest attendance for a game in a long time. Baseball will be back there next year with a scheduled series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. If they want to keep those rivalries going, how about the Dodgers and Giants for 2021?
With 50 runs, 65 hits, and four errors, there was a lot to see and talk about. It may not have been the script that we anticipated, but many Brits had to be leaving the park saying, “good show”. Jolly good indeed.
Regular programming: Saturday's game, which was televised by Fox, took so long (4 hours, 42 minutes), coverage of golf was moved to FS1. Only, FS1 had a scheduled baseball game between the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers. That game was shuffled off to FS2—a network that few people, even sports fans, knows exists. ESPN had the Sunday game, which began at 7am Pacific Time (3pm in London), atime when when the focus is mostly on those morning news shows.
Getting political: Speaking of news shows, the Democratic debates were interesting, but with ten candidates in each field, it would have been nicer if those not-so-well-known candidates were asked more questions. We know what Bernie Sanders thinks, but Andrew Yang was not asked one question during the final hour of the second debate. The only time he spoke is when they went down the line with a short-answer question, or his 45-second closing statement. The news shows were panning Joe Biden for cutting a response short because his time was up. He should have gotten credit for following the rules while other candidates were yelling over each other.
A million dollars? No thanks: Baseball's Home Run Derby is a week from tonight in Cleveland, but getting participants is becoming difficult. MLB made the top prize a million dollars, but the Angels' Mike Trout still decided to skip the event. So did Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, and he only makes about 700-thousand dollars a year. It's apparently not just too much work, but many think it messes up their swing going into the second half of the season.
Skaggs dead: When I left work today, nothing unusual had happened. When I got home ahout an hour later and turned on the TV, I learned that Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs had died. He was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Texas. Skaggs was just 27. No foul play was suspected, but no other information has been made available. Tonight's game between the Angels and Texas Rangers was postponed.