Yankees' loss to Red Sox attracted most viewers for a baseball game on ESPN since 1998

After the New York Yankees' 6-2 win, the Boston Red Sox dugout explodes onto the field. The New York Yankees will host the Boston Red Sox in the American League Wild Card Playoff game at Fenway Park, Boston on October 5, 2021.
The 2021 postseason began Tuesday with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. This was the most-watched game of baseball on Disney's ESPN networks. It started on Tuesday with Mark McGwire's then-record-setting 61th home run in 1998.

In an elimination format, the American League Wild Card game pitted long-time AL East rivals against each other. The Red Sox defeated the Yankees 6-2 to advance to the AL Division Series where they will face the Tampa Bay Rays. Thursday's game one of the five-game best-of-five series begins.

On Tuesday night, 7.7 million viewers watched the contest on ESPN. The network reported that viewership reached 8.4 million between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m. ET.

This is the highest total since September 7, 1998 when McGwire's St. Louis Cardinals met Sammy Sosa’s Chicago Cubs in a late season contest. Although neither team made it to the playoffs, all eyes were on this series because McGwire was on pace for Roger Maris' 1961 single-season home run record, which stood at 61.

McGwire scored his 61st run that night in front a 10.6 million ESPN viewers. McGwire finished the season with 70 homers, followed closely by Sosa's 66.

ESPN reported Tuesday's contest saw a 19.8 household rating. This means that nearly 20% of the 2.3 million households in Boston tuned in to the game. It was the most-watched Red Sox game ever on ESPN in Boston since 2009.

New York had a household rating of 11.2 Nielsen metrics were used by ESPN to measure viewership.

EDO, an advertising data company, estimated Tuesday's Wild Card had 55% more search engagement than any other 2021 MLB regular-season game. The commercial during the game was 55% more popular than the average 2021 MLB regular season game. EDO reported that Verizon and Nissan were the most searched brands.

The Yankees-Red Sox match saw 67% more viewers than the 2019 AL Wild Card game between Rays and Oakland Athletics. The contest attracted 4.6 million viewers.