USA Today Sports

Top 10 moments from Red Sox' first half

Dan Shulman
July 10, 2017 - 3:20 pm

As the All-Star break begins, let's take a look back at the Red Sox' first half. After a bit of a slow start, the Sox found their form and now sit atop the American League East standings, 3 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees and Rays. There have been a lot of great moments during the season so far. Here's our take on the top 10.

10. 13-inning win over St. Louis - May 17

For the first time since 2014, the Red Sox paid a visit to Busch Stadium and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Sox earned a victory in the first game of the two-game set and were looking to grab the sweep. After falling behind 4-0 early, the Sox evened up the score in the middle innings and forced extras. In the top of the 13th, Chris Young stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter and delivered a clutch single, scoring Mitch Moreland and putting the Sox in front.

9. 10-run 9th inning vs. Minnesota - May 7

The Red Sox bats were late to arrive this season, but a weekend series in Minnesota proved to be the cure. Following a heart-breaking loss on Friday night, the Sox scored a season-high 11 runs on Saturday. But Boston didn't wait long to eclipse that total, piling on 17 runs the next day. Heading into the top of the ninth clinging to a 7-6 lead, the Sox offense sprung to life, scoring 10 runs in the frame to blow the game open. 

8. Mitch Moreland sets doubles record, Sox come back to beat Pittsburgh - April 13

Newly-acquired first basemen Mitch Moreland impressed pretty much from the get-go. In a makeup game against the Pirates, he doubled for an eighth straight game, setting a Red Sox franchise record. Despite Moreland's feat, the Pirates still entered the top of the eighth leading 3-1 before the Sox' bats exploded. After Hanley Ramirez tied the game with a 2-run double, in stepped Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop flared a single into right field, scoring Ramirez and putting Boston ahead for good.

7. Win over Houston on Sunday Night Baseball lifts Sox back into first - June 18

After taking three of four from the MLB-worst Philadelphia Phillies, Boston rolled into Houston for a big weekend series with the league-best Astros. On Sunday, Boston had a chance to take the series and grab a share of first place in the AL East for the first time in two months. Xander Bogaerts scored his first-career multi-home run game with a pair of round-trippers. With Boston leading 6-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Carlos Beltran belted a bases-loaded single to left field. George Springer scored, but Jose Altuve was gunned down at the plate by Andrew Benintendi and a terrific sweep tag by Christian Vazquez. The latter ended the game by catching Derek Fisher stealing in the ninth, moving the Sox into a tie with the Yankees atop the division. 

6. Mookie Betts hits franchise-record 11th leadoff homer - July 9

The Red Sox dropped their final contest of the first half at Tampa Bay, 5-3, thanks to some late heroics by Rays hitting. However, on just the third pitch of the game, Mookie Betts made Red Sox history by hammering his 11th career leadoff home run, surpassing Jacoby Ellsbury for the Red Sox franchise record. Betts is still just 24.

5. Dustin Pedroia's outstanding defensive play vs. Texas - July 3

The Red Sox ended the first half with a 10-game, three-city road trip. The middle destination was Texas, where the Red Sox have struggled in recent years. In the bottom of the ninth in the series-opener, after Craig Kimbrel blew a save opportunity by allowing a lead-off home run, Carlos Gomez looked to keep the rally going. A slow roller to the third base side proved troublesome for Deven Marrero, who threw the ball away. Gomez instinctively turned to head to second base, but the ball took a crazy carom off the wall towards Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman contorted his body, bare-handed the ball, and tossed it back to Moreland all in one falling motion. Moreland applied a sweep tag to nab Gomez in one of the craziest defensive sequences of the year. The Red Sox went on to win the game, 7-5, in 11 innings.


4. Brian Johnson throws a complete game shutout - May 27

Red Sox prospect Brian Johnson had always struggled to break into the rotation. Medical problems hindered the left hander in the past and his ability had seemingly fallen through the cracks. But on a Saturday afternoon in May, all of Johnson's struggles faded away. The lefty was incredible, throwing nine scoreless innings, allowing just five hits while striking out eight. Eighty-five of his 109 pitches went for strikes. Boston sent eight hitters to the plate in the first inning and scored three times, all on RBI singles. Boston's defense also came up huge as Mookie Betts robbed a home run while Jackie Bradley Jr. made a pair of excellent grabs in the ninth to preserve the shutout. The Red Sox won the game, 6-0.

3. David Ortiz number retirement ceremony - June 23

Perhaps the most anticipated event of the season was the David Ortiz number retirement. On Friday, June 23, past and present Red Sox players honored Big Papi in a pregame ceremony which included touching speeches by his former teammates. The Sox adorned Ortiz's No. 34 on the facade of the right field roof, immortalizing arguably the best designated hitter in MLB history. It marked the 10th number to be retired by the team. Oh, and the Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Angels, 9-4, later that night. 

2. Back-to-back walk-off wins over Philadelphia - June 12-13

The Red Sox faced just one opponent from the National League East this season, a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Phillies back in June. In both home games, the Red Sox earned walk-off victories. In the first game, the Sox came from behind twice, recovering from 4-0 and 5-4 deficits to force extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Dustin Pedroia got his first walk-off hit in seven years, cracking a single to score Deven Marrero.

The next night, it was Philly forcing extras after recovering from a pair of deficits. In the 12th inning, Andrew Benintendi roped a walk-off single to right field scoring Xander Bogaerts. The wins moved Boston to within three games of first-place New York at the time. 

1. Chris Sale's dominance, strikeout record - July 6

A major theme of the Red Sox season so far has been the dominance of Chris Sale on the mound. The lofty lefty has cruised to an 11-4 record, 2.75 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP over the first half. But his most mind-blowing statistic so far is his strikeouts -- all 178 of them. From April 10 to May 13, Sale tied his own record by recording 10 or more strikeouts in eight straight outings. In total, Sale has recorded double-digit strikeout totals in 12 starts this season, setting a Red Sox record for most games with 10 or more Ks by a pitcher before the All-Star break. Sale broke the previous record of 11 in his latest start, a losing effort in Tampa Bay. The record had stood since Pedro Martinez accomplished the feat in 1999. Sale, on pace for more than 300 Ks this season, will start the All-Star game for the second straight year.