NEW YORK -- This weekend, Major League Baseball will take its most storied rivalry across the pond, as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will play a two-game series in London.
The historic matchup will take place after a particularly notable chapter in the rivalry, with the Red Sox defeating the Yankees in the 2018 American League Division Series en route to their ninth World Series championship last year. This season, however, the Yankees hold a 4-1 record over the Red Sox in five games while sitting atop the AL East.
The series will be played at London Stadium, a venue most famous for hosting the Olympic Games in 2012 that has been transformed into a ballpark -- outfitted with 141,900 square feet of artificial turf, 18-meter-tall foul poles and over 400 meters of fencing.
After Wednesday’s 8-7 walk-off win over the Blue Jays completed a 9-1 homestand, the Yankees headed off to the airport to catch their flight to London. According to manager Aaron Boone, the team has set up its travel plans with a dual focus: to prepare for the series while also allowing the players to enjoy the unique trip.
Thursday will be set aside for the players to spend time with their family and friends, while Friday will be a normal workout day at London Stadium. While the unfamiliar setting could prove to be a distraction for the Yankees, Boone insisted that it will be business as usual.
“I’m not worried about these guys being able to compartmentalize with the different things that come at you -- both exciting or annoying -- that happen throughout the course of the season,” Boone said. “So, we’ll handle it, we’ll be ready to go, and I know our guys are really looking forward to the excitement and the added eyeballs and energy that these games will probably bring.”
For that reason, there hasn’t been much of an opportunity to plan out an itinerary. It will be a quick trip for the Yankees -- with two days off and two days on before a return flight to the U.S. after Sunday’s game -- but they are hoping to make the most of whatever free time their schedule allows.
More important for them, though, is the opportunity to spread the game of baseball to a global audience and gain some new fans who are more accustomed to seeing London Stadium as a soccer arena -- a mission shared by MLB. While MLB has previously held international matchups in Mexico, Japan and Australia, this weekend’s series will be the first regular-season games played in Europe. It’s fitting then that one of its biggest rivalries will be the box-office draw.
“It’s gonna be a good one,” said Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. “Another quality ballclub, great pitching staff and great offense. The fans are gonna be in for quite a treat over there.”
Set to take the mound for the Yankees on Saturday will be Masahiro Tanaka, who is coming off a pair of strong outings last week, including a two-hit, 10-strikeout shutout against the Rays. For Sunday, Boone suggested that the Yankees would opt for an opener/bullpen strategy that has worked out well for them this year. The team is 7-0 when starting the game with pitcher Chad Green in that role, most recently in Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays in which Nestor Cortes Jr. earned the win while pitching 4 1/3 innings after Green tossed one frame.
For the series, each team will have a 26-man roster instead of the usual 25, but they can both bring two extra players in case of injury. One player missing out on the trip will be outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a PCL sprain of his right knee on Wednesday. Boone announced that outfielder Mike Tauchman will replace Stanton on the roster and infielder Thairo Estrada with be the 26th man. Pitcher Chance Adams and catcher Kyle Higashioka will also be joining the Yankees in London.
A few familiar faces will be tagging along, according to WFAN’s Suzyn Waldman, who revealed that former Yankees Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher will be in attendance in London.
With so much travel in a short time window, the physical toll of the trip could be demanding, but Boone feels certain that the scheduled days off built around it will protect the team from any trouble. The Yankees will have the following Monday off before starting a stretch of six straight games against the Mets and Rays leading into the All-Star break.
Nevertheless, whatever fatigue they might experience will ultimately be worth it for the Yankees, who are excited for a chance to compete on an international stage and to make memories that will stick with them throughout their careers.
“We’ve got a couple days over there, it’s gonna go by fast,” Judge said. “But I’m telling the guys, ‘Just enjoy it, walk around the city and just have fun with it. It’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.’”