The Boston Red Sox's Top 5 Plays from the First Half of 2014

Mark Vandeusen@@lucidsportsfanContributor IIIJune 30, 2014

The Boston Red Sox's Top 5 Plays from the First Half of 2014

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    Brock Holt's first career appearance in center field was a memorable one.
    Brock Holt's first career appearance in center field was a memorable one.USA TODAY Sports

    The 2014 MLB season has reached the midway point, and it was a disappointing first-half campaign for the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

    Despite posting a sub-.500 record, the Red Sox did manage to put together their fair share of highlights.  Here are Boston's top five plays of the year so far.

No. 5: Grady Sizemore Homers on Opening Day

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    Grady Sizemore hadn't played in a major league game since September of 2011.  He signed with Boston this past winter, then surprised everyone by hitting .310 in spring training and earning the Red Sox starting center field job on Opening Day.

    In just his second at-bat of the season, Sizemore hit a home run against the Baltimore Orioles, completing a nearly miraculous return to the big leagues.

    Unfortunately for both Sizemore and the Red Sox, his comeback was short lived—he batted just .216 in 52 games with Boston and was released on June 18. 

No. 4: Jon Lester Records Career-High 15 Strikouts Against Oakland A's

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    On May 3, Jon Lester became the first Red Sox pitcher to strike out 15 or more batters in a game since Pedro Martinez in 2001.  Lester set a career high for punch-outs in his 6-3 win over the Oakland A's, allowing just one hit over eight innings.

    Via Jason Mastrodonato of Mass Live, Lester was only the third left-hander in the last 100 years to strike out 15 or more while giving up one hit or fewer.  His outstanding effort also represented the most strikeouts ever by a Boston lefty in a nine-inning game.

No. 3: A.J. Pierzynski Hits Walk-off Triple in Beanball Tilt vs. Tampa Bay Rays

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    A.J. Pierzynski's bat has been quiet for most of the season, but on May 30 he provided the game-winning walk-off hit in a heated 10-inning battle with the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Rays pitchers hit three Boston batters, and the Red Sox had a total of four players and coaches ejected in retaliation.

    After coming back from a 2-0 fifth-inning deficit to force extra innings, Pierzynski's triple in the bottom of the 10th gave Boston a dramatic 3-2 victory—its fifth in a row following a 10-game losing streak.

No. 2: Brock Holt Comes out of Nowhere to Make Superman Catch

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    The Red Sox's 2014 season would likely be a disaster of epic proportions if it weren't for the surprising emergence of Brock Holt.

    Originally called up from Triple-A to fill in at third base, Holt has batted over .300 all year and forced Boston to do everything it can to keep him in the lineup.  He's spent time at first base and all three outfield positions as well, and he continued to play inspiring baseball no matter where the Red Sox put him.

    On June 17, Holt made his first professional start in center field and helped preserve Boston's 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins with a spectacular diving grab on a ball that left fielder Jonny Gomes lost sight of.

No. 1: David Ortiz and Mike Napoli Hit Back-to-Back 10th-Inning Home Runs

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    On June 18, John Lackey submitted an outstanding nine-inning shutout performance against the Twins in which he struck out nine batters while allowing just three hits and one walk.  The Red Sox also failed to score, however, and the game went into extra innings tied at zero.

    In the top of the 10th with two outs, Boston closer Koji Uehara surrendered a solo home run to Chris Parmelee, and the Red Sox's chances looked bleak.  But in the bottom of the inning, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli belted back-to-back home runs of their own, giving Boston a sensational walk-off victory.