Ranking the 15 Greatest Moments of the 2014 MLB 1st Half

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIJuly 9, 2014

Ranking the 15 Greatest Moments of the 2014 MLB 1st Half

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    From the unreal throws of Yoenis Cespedes to the 500th home run of Albert Pujols, there have been tons of unforgettable moments in the first half of the 2014 MLB season.

    After pouring through the archives, what follows is a rundown of the 15 greatest of all. The list is littered with a mixture of historic landmarks and moments of individual genius. All the highlights that made the cut are incredible, but No. 1 is the type of play that you might just never see again. 

    Let's take a look at the top 15 plays of the first half.

Honorable Mentions

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Before the top 15 countdown gets underway, here are a few of the plays that were simply too good to pass up. 

Honorable Mention No. 1: Josh Harrison Goes Horizontal

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    Josh Harrison, the utility man for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is the most improbable All-Star of any of the players selected in 2014. There's no question that the 27-year-old will be bringing his glove to Target Field in Minnesota on July 15. 

Honorable Mention No. 2: The St. Louis Cardinals Go 3-1-3 on the Putout

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    You see something new every time you go to the ballpark. On this unusual play, St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Tim McCarver of Fox Sports Midwest simply couldn't stop laughing.

Honorable Mention No. 3: Nelson Cruz Delivers a Game-Tying Grand Slam

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    Nelson Cruz has provided the Baltimore Orioles with a lot of home runs in 2014—28 to be exact. 

    None were as important as the game-tying grand slam he launched on June 25 with two outs in the eighth inning of an eventual 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox.

15. Masahiro Tanaka Piles Up 11 Strikeouts to Tie His MLB Career High

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    Masahiro Tanaka's entire rookie season has been a highlight reel. 

    On June 11 against the Seattle Mariners, the right-hander turned in his most impressive showing of all. The Japanese ace posted his first complete-game shutout for the New York Yankees and picked up his 10th win of the season. In the process, Tanaka tied his MLB career high with 11 strikeouts.

14. Madison Bumgarner Puts the San Francisco Giants Ahead with a Grand Slam

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    Madison Bumgarner is well-known for his dominance on the mound. The left-handed starter can also swing the bat.

    On April 11 at San Francisco's AT&T Park, the 24-year-old crushed a grand slam into the left field bleachers as the Giants topped the Colorado Rockies 6-5. The lefty was just the second Giants pitcher to connect on a grand slam since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958, according to ESPN Stats and Info

13. Marcell Ozuna Sends the Miami Marlins Home with a Laser

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    "The best arm out of the bullpen tonight was in left field."

    That was the call on the Miami Marlins TV broadcast after Marcell Ozuna ended the club's contest on June 20. With the Marlins holding a 3-2 lead over the New York Mets in the ninth inning, the 23-year-old caught a fly ball in left and delivered a pinpoint throw to the plate to produce a game-ending double play. 

12. The Milwaukee Brewers Score 3 Runs on a Wild Pitch

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    On June 21 while playing the Colorado Rockies, the Milwaukee Brewers accomplished the seemingly impossible, scoring three runs on a wild pitch. The credit for the third run, however, goes to the brilliant baserunning of Jean Segura. 

11. Jose Abreu Hits a Walk-off Grand Slam

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    On April 25, Jose Abreu provided Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson with the perfect opportunity to deliver his patented home run call. 

    "You can put it on the board! Yes! Yes! Yes!"

    With the White Sox down to their final out and losing by a run against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Cuban clubbed a bases-clearing home run to win the game 9-6.

10. Nick Swisher Provides the Cleveland Indians with a Walk-off Grand Slam

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    June 19 did not start off well for Nick Swisher.

    The Cleveland Indians switch-hitter was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts entering his final at-bat of the game. That all changed thanks to a high fastball from Angels reliever Ernesto Frieri.

    With the Indians down to their final out and trailing the Los Angeles Angels by two runs in the 10th inning, Swisher connected on a game-winning grand slam. 

9. Miguel Cabrera Homers for His 2,000th Hit

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    There's no other way to put it: Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters of recent memory. 

    The first baseman for the Detroit Tigers owns a .320 career average, which is good for No. 49 on the all-time list, per Baseball-Reference.com. On April 4, Cabrera collected his 2,000th hit, lining a home run to left field. 

    Just 31 years old, Cabrera is well on his way to joining the elusive 3,000-hit club. 

8. Adrian Beltre Picks Up Career Hit No. 2,500

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    On June 24, Adrian Beltre lashed a single up the middle to collect hit No. 2,500 in his career. 

    The third baseman for the Texas Rangers now sits in 93rd-place on the all-time hits list, per Baseball-Reference.com. Beltre doesn't turn 36 until next April, which means he has a very real shot at surpassing the 3,000-hit plateau. 

7. Andrew McCutchen's Nearly Perfect Catch

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    There have been some remarkable catches in 2014, but none quite like Andrew McCutchen's leaping grab against the New York Mets on June 13. 

    The reigning NL MVP ran 83 feet and topped out at 19.4 mph as he tracked down the drive off the bat of Juan Lagares, according to MLB Advanced Media. The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder's "route efficiency" was 99.7 percent, per the calculations of MLBAM.

6. Josh Beckett Records the 1st No-Hitter of His Career

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    Josh Beckett was dealing on May 25 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    On the day at Citizen Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia, the Dodgers veteran racked up six strikeouts as he no-hit the Phillies. That performance was particularly noteworthy, considering that Beckett managed just eight starts a season ago. However, the 34-year-old's season has since taken a turn for the worse. Beckett has been placed on the disabled list with a hip injury, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

5. Clayton Kershaw Strikes out 15 in No-Hitter

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    "And there's one out to go. One miserable, measly out."

    Those were the words of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully right before Clayton Kershaw recorded the 27th and final out of his no-hitter on June 18. The 27th out against the Colorado Rockies came courtesy of Kershaw's 15th strikeout. That figure marked a career high for the left-hander. 

4. Tim Lincecum Throws His 2nd No-Hitter

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    Tim Lincecum is an enigma. 

    The San Francisco Giants right-hander has all sorts of talent, but in recent seasons he's often struggled to get batters out. On June 25 against the San Diego Padres, that certainly wasn't the case. The 30-year-old worked nine hitless frames to earn his second no-hitter in as many seasons. 

    Lincecum joined Christy Mathewson to become one of just two pitchers in the team's history to throw two no-hitters, according to the Giants' Twitter account

3. Derek Jeter Passes Paul Molitor on the All-Time Hits List

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    All it took was a ground ball down the first base line for Derek Jeter to continue his climb up the all-time leaderboard. 

    On April 6 against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees captain collected hit No. 3,320, which pushed him past Paul Molitor into the No. 9 spot on the all-time hits list, per Baseball-Reference.com. With the second half of the season still ahead of him, Jeter needs 35 hits to move past three players and finish No. 6 overall. 

2. Albert Pujols Collects Home Run No. 500 of His Career

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    On April 22, Los Angeles Angel Albert Pujols became just the 26th member of the 500 home run club. 

    Pujols took a 1-2 offering from the Washington Nationals' Taylor Jordan and redirected it into the seats in left-center field at Nationals Park. With the drive, the 34-year-old became the third-youngest player to reach the milestone. per the MLB Stat of the Day Twitter account. 

1. Yoenis Cespedes Uncorks 1 of the Best Throws Ever

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    On June 10, Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes made one of the greatest throws not just this season, but in the history of baseball. 

    Standing some 300 feet from the Angel Stadium plate, Cespedes threw a strike to home and somehow managed to stop the Angels' Howie Kendrick from scoring.

    "That's the most remarkable throw and out you'll ever see," said Ray Fosse, Oakland's broadcaster.

    Alan M. Nathan, a former physics professor and guest writer for Baseball Prospectus, dug into the science behind the throw. "I find that the ball was released at a speed of 97-99 mph."

    It's worth pointing out that the play only ever happened because the Cuban left fielder initially booted the ball. Still, the throw claims the top spot in these rankings because there simply aren't that many people on the entire planet capable of pulling it off.

    Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com. All videos courtesy of MLB.com.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.