Boston Red Sox: Most Memorable Highlights of the Season's First Half

Jess Lander@@jesslanderContributor IIIJuly 5, 2013

Boston Red Sox: Most Memorable Highlights of the Season's First Half

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    We've reached the 2013 season's halfway point, and, unlike last year, there have been many positive, memorable Red Sox moments so far, resulting in a nice 4.5-game lead in the AL East.

    The way things are looking, the best is yet to come. But first, let's recap the excitement that's gone down the last three months—as if you could forget.

Walk-off Win Gives Sox 50 Before July

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    For just the fourth time in franchise history, the Red Sox started July with 50 wins under their belt, marking a drastic turnaround from 2012.

    That 50th win didn't come easily, though.

    June 30, Jose Bautista tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth when he hit a home run off of Koji Uehara. 

    The Red Sox pulled through, though, when Brandon Snyder (in his first start for Boston) got things going with a one-out single. Then, Jacoby Ellsbury walked, and Shane Victorino reached first on an error by Josh Thole, sending Jonathan Diaz (brought in to run for Snyder in just his second major league game) home.

Benches Clear in 14-Inning Night

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    June 11's game took 14 innings and five hours, 24 minutes, but the Red Sox finally ground out a win against Tampa Bay. 

    It was a frustrating game for the Sox, who started out on fire with their first eight players up to bat reaching a base on seven hits and a walk. Boston was quickly out to a 6-0 lead.

    The long night wasn't without drama, either. By just the second inning, John Lackey purposely drilled Rays batter Matt Joyce in the back and subsequently cleared the benches—a common occurrence when these two teams meet.

Ortiz First Walk-off in 4 Years

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    Few likely realized it had been so long since David Ortiz had done the thing he does best: Come up big in the clutch. 

    But in fact, it had been four years since Boston's Big Papi had hit a walk-off homer for the Red Sox.

    That drought ended June 6 when Ortiz hit a line drive to the Rangers bullpen in the bottom of the ninth, sending Dustin Pedroia and Jonny Gomes home and completing a Red Sox comeback after they trailed 3-0. 

Bradley Hits His First Home Run in 17-Run Game

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    The breakout star of spring training and the center of much media hype, prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. got an earlier-than-expected start in the majors when Red Sox manager John Farrell put him on the Opening Day roster.

    But Bradley's big-league introduction didn't live up to that hype or the somewhat unrealistic expectations that were put on him to help a team that so badly needed change. And after going hitless for 20 at-bats, he was sent back down to the minors.

    So when Bradley came back for his second tryout and hit his first career home run against the Rangers June 5, it was the bomb that stood out in a four-home run, 17-5 Texas massacre.

    It was proof that Bradley wasn't a dud—he just needed some time to warm up.

    The two-run shot wasn't going to secure Bradley a consistent job at Fenway, but it was a sign of more good things to come out of the young prospect.

    That game was also notable as Boston's highest scoring since 2011.

Napoli's Grand Slams

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    Mike Napoli has quickly proven his worth of his one-year, $5 million deal by hitting two grand slams in the first half of the season.

    The first came early April 22 in the fifth inning, leading to a 9-6 win over Oakland. Napoli drove in five runs total that night.

    The second came June 1 in the third inning, contributing to a ferocious 11-1 win over the Yankees.

    He has nine home runs in 2013 so far.

Jacoby Ellsbury Steals 5 in One Night

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    Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston's Speedy Gonzalez, outdid himself May 30 when he stole a team-record five bases against the Phillies.

    The downside? None of them led to scoring, and his final steal led to an injury that put him out several games.

The Memorial Day Weekend Miracle

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    Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the Red Sox were trailing 5-2 to the Indians. Things didn't look promising.

    Enter the slumping Ellsbury, who'd been nothing short of invisible at the plate in May. After Pedroia and Ortiz came home to bring the Sox within one, Ellsbury stepped up to the plate and hit a two-run walk-off double, completing a remarkable comeback for Boston.

    The comeback came just one day after the Red Sox completed another—though less remarkable—come-from-behind victory after a four-run, eighth-inning rally. 

Clay Buchholz Accused of Throwing Spitball

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    Definitely memorable, but not in a good way, was when Toronto Blue Jay broadcaster Jack Morris accused Clay Buchholz of throwing a spitball May 1. 

    At the time, Buchholz was 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA and coming off another win against Toronto. Both he and Sox manager Farrell insisted he wasn't cheating but merely rubbing rosin on his arm, a common practice among pitchers.

    The issue has seemingly disappeared since, especially as Buchholz has spent the last month on the DL, but Boston certainly didn't appreciate its ace being accused of cheating.

    Also notable May 1 was that the Red Sox hit five home runs: two from Napoli (including his longest ever) and others from Stephen Drew, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.

Big Papi's Expletive

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    One of the most memorable moments of this Red Sox season happened before the game even started. April 20, five days after the Boston Marathon Bombings, the Red Sox made an emotional return to Fenway Park.

    The Sox won that game triumphantly 4-3, but the talk of the night surrounded Ortiz's moving pregame speech, in which he dropped a legendary expletive in support of his beloved, adopted hometown. 

    The game was Ortiz's first of the season after being placed on the DL at the start of the season.

    It was so appropriate, given the circumstances, that the FCC came out in full support. 

Will Middlebrooks' 3 Home Run Game

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    Will Middlebrooks may be having a particularly rough season, especially with his demotion to Pawtucket after he failed to get out of his slump.

    But that doesn't take away from one of this season's greatest moments: Middlebrooks sent three deep against the Blue Jays on April 7.

    It may have been a false indication of what fans could expect from the third baseman, yet, at the time, the moment was a very positive sign of a Red Sox turnaround just a week into the 2013 season.

Honorable Mentions

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    April 1: Red Sox defeat Yankees 8-2 on season opener at Yankees Stadium, the first reason for optimism after a terrible 2012.

    April 8: Underdog player Daniel Nava hits three-run homer to lead the Red Sox to a 3-1 victory on Opening Day at Fenway Park.