New York Yankees see off Boston Red Sox in run-fest at the London Stadium

New York Yankees see off Boston Red Sox in run-fest at the London Stadium

The first Major League Baseball game to be played in the UK turned into a run-fest as the New York Yankees held on to beat rivals the Boston Red Sox 17-13 at the London Stadium.

Baseball in what is considered its purest form should be a low-scoring battle of pitchers, but any new fans among the sell-out crowd of 59,659 – a record for the major leagues this season – saw something of an arcade version as the teams piled up six home runs and 37 hits between them.

Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge cleared the fences for the Yankees, while Michael Chavis had two three-run shots for the Red Sox to go with Jackie Bradley Jr’s solo shot in the sixth.

It saw the so-called ‘Evil Empire’ extend their run to 12 wins out of 13, moving further clear at the top of the American League East.

In contrast, this version of the Red Sox often looked about as far from being capable of defending their World Series crown as they were from Boston, hitting well but without the pitching needed to win consistently.

After Red Sox lead-off hitter Mookie Betts met his distant relative the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle pre-game, the first inning of a Major League Baseball game to be played in Europe contained more drama than anything the former actress has appeared in.

The London crowd could have been forgiven for thinking the contest was effectively over when Hicks became the first player to hit a major league home run this side of the Atlantic, putting the Yankees 6-0 up on a two-run shot to right field.

But as quickly as this powerful Yankee line-up had chased Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello from the game, their own Masahiro Tanaka would make an unwanted exit.

The Japanese righthander was immediately in trouble as Boston loaded the bases with nobody out, and when Chavis hit a home run to centre-field, the game was level at 6-6.

Lest any newcomers think this 12-run, 58-minute opening inning was normal, it was the first time since 1989 that both starting pitchers had been replaced without getting three outs.

That sort of pace could not last, but nor did the drama. The Yankees quickly moved back in front as Gardner made it 8-6 with a two-run homer in the third.

In the fourth, DJ LeMahieu’s three-run double was followed by a two-run homer from Judge which made it 14-6.

They moved 17-7 clear but even then the Red Sox threatened another rally, with another three-run shot from Chavis sparking a six-run seventh that cut the deficit to four, before New York finally closed the door.

The Yankees will not be alone in toasting success, as the biggest crowd for any major league game this season is also a huge win for MLB.

Where the NFL and NBA have been visiting London for several years, MLB has been slower to join in, mostly due to a lack of suitable venues for a ballpark.

Red Sox owner John W Henry told PA he had been working towards this day for a decade, but the cost of converting a venue like the London Stadium was vast, and the league will move forward cautiously.

“I was hoping to play either here or Wembley,” Henry said. “At first I thought Wembley would be a great venue but this is really cool. It’s expensive to make the changes but this is great.”

Another two-game series, between the Chicago Cubs and St Louis Cardinals, is scheduled for next June, but the project’s future beyond that is unclear.

“I’m thrilled we’re in London,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “I’m glad we’re coming back next year.

“I’d like to be back after that but I’m also interested in having play in other cities in Europe. All of that will have to be worked out.”