All you need to know about Mets v Phillies in London

MLB London Series 2024 - New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies

Venue: London Stadium Date: Saturday, 8 June & Sunday, 9 June First pitch: 18:10 & 15:10 BST.

Coverage: Watch both games live on BBC iPlayer, Red Button and the BBC Sport website and app on Saturday from 18:00 & Sunday from 15:00.

Major League Baseball returns to the UK this weekend with another of the league's biggest rivalries heading across the Atlantic.

The St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs shared last year's two-game series at London Stadium and now it's time for the Battle of the Broads.

That's the name given to the rivalry between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies - because of Broadway in New York and Broad Street in Philadelphia.

The 'Polar Bear' and 'Showman' will be among the stars on show during the two regular season games and you can watch both games live on the BBC.

Who are favourites for MLB London?

With New York and Philadelphia 90 miles apart on the USA's east coast, their sports teams have long been rivals and after the Dodgers and Giants relocated from the Big Apple to the west coast in the 1950s, the Mets were formed in 1962 to fill the void.

As divisional rivals in the National League East, they and the Phillies - one of the MLB's oldest clubs having been founded in 1883 - have since faced each other more than 1,000 times, with the Phillies edging their head-to-head record (551-520).

Both are two-time winners of baseball's biggest prize - the World Series - with the Mets winning in 1969 and 1986, while the Phillies triumphed in 1980 and 2008.

"They're from hardscrabble cities with hardcore fans so it's a very intense, fun rivalry," says Joe Posnanski, author of Why We Love Baseball.

The Phillies reached their eighth World Series in 2022 and narrowly fell short last season.

They currently have the MLB's joint-best record of 44 wins and 19 defeats while the Mets are struggling again at 27-35, despite their 2020 takeover by billionaire Steve Cohen having helped them also reach the play-offs in 2022.

"The Mets are the highest-paid team in baseball," Posnanski adds. "There were great expectations but so far they've failed to live up to them."

Who are the players to watch?

Pete Alonso and Bryce Harper celebrate

The Mets' payroll may be $309m (£241m), but the Phillies - who pay $246m (£192m) a year - signed Bryce Harper in 2019 on a then-record $330m, 13-year contract.

"As big a star as there is in the game", the first baseman often wears a headband featuring his nickname 'Showman'.

"He's a great power hitter," says Posnanski, whose book was published this week in the UK. "He can hit a massive home run at any point."

Ranger Suarez came into this year as a "relative unknown" yet the Venezuelan leads MLB pitchers with a 1.70 ERA (Earned Run Average) and is expected to start on Saturday, with Mexico pitcher Taijuan Walker scheduled for Sunday.

However, the Phillies' designated hitter Kyle Schwarber could be the player that UK fans "get the biggest kick out of".

"He's this big brute of a guy who goes up to the plate looking to do one thing and one thing only - hit the ball over the fence," Posnanski adds.

The Mets' power hitter is Pete Alonso, a burly first baseman nicknamed 'Polar Bear', while Puerto Rico shortstop Francisco Lindor is "certain to make a few dazzling plays".

Veteran left-hander Sean Manaea will be their starting pitcher on Saturday, with Jose Quintana taking over on Sunday.

Who will throw the first pitch?

Actors Kaitlin Olson, Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day rally fans during the MLB's 2023 National League Championship Series
Kaitlin Olson, Rob McElhenney and co-star Charlie Day are Phillies fans and even tried to rally the crowd during last year's National League Championship Series [Getty Images]

Having made his name in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it will come as no surprise to hear that Rob McElhenney is one of those hardcore Phillies fans.

In the show, his character 'Mac' wrote a love letter to Phillies legend Chase Utley, saying he wanted to 'play catch' with the 2008 World Series winner.

At his retirement ceremony in 2019, Utley threw the first pitch to McElhenney, yet the actor's connection with the team goes even deeper.

While he and his wife - Always Sunny co-star Kaitlin Olson - were at a Phillies game in 2010, she went into labour with their first child.

Now co-owner of Welsh football team Wrexham, McElhenney will be rooting for his team in London and will throw the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday.

Fellow actor Matthew Broderick, an avid Mets fan, will do the honours on Saturday.

When are the MLB games in London?

This year's London games take place on 8 and 9 June, with the first pitch being thrown at 18:10 BST on Saturday and 15:10 on Sunday.

London Stadium will feature traditional ballpark food from New York and Philly, and last year's favourite is back on the menu - a 2ft hotdog.

From Friday to Sunday there will also be a baseball festival at Trafalgar Square, where Utley will be joined by Gladiators Apollo and Fire.