It’s been a historic first half for the Boston Red Sox.
In his first season as Red Sox manager, Alex Cora has Boston on pace to eclipse its franchise-mark in wins. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have forged their home-run hitting powers, each seeming to emit an aura of invincibility when they dig into the batters box.
Whittling down Boston’s abundance of successes into the Red Sox’ 12 most memorable moments of 2018 wasn’t an easy task. Here’s what we came up with:
MARCH 30: Baseball was hardly on the forefront of Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel’s mind during Boston’s second game of the season. While Kimbrel trotted to the mound to preserve a 1-0 lead at Tropicana Field in Saint Petersburg, Fla., his daughter, Lydia, was resting in the Boston Children’s Hospital recovering from heart surgery. Kimbrel honed his focus, striking out the side against the Tampa Bay Rays to help erase memories of Boston’s Opening Day debacle the afternoon prior. The tightly contested affair also marked Cora’s first win as Sox manager.
APRIL 8: This was no Mother’s Day Miracle, but Boston added another close win to its docket by tallying six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and overcoming Tampa Bay, 8-7, at Fenway Park. Andrew Benintendi delivered one in a line of clutch knocks, sending an RBI double into center field to break a tie as Boston recorded its eighth straight win. Boston’s postgame jubilation was quelled by news that shortstop Xander Bogaerts could miss time after injuring his ankle sliding down into the Rays dugout.
And that’s how you complete the sweep!! pic.twitter.com/78wltw6qTi— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) April 8, 2018
APRIL 11: Boston’s second loss of the season was overshadowed by some jousting between foes. Dormant no longer, the Sox-Yankees rivalry was injected with passion when Boston flamethrower Joe Kelly pegged New York first baseman Tyler Austin with a pitch that triggered a bench-clearing brawl.
Benches clear, punches thrown in Yankees-Red Sox after Tyler Austin is hit by a pitch from Joe Kelly. pic.twitter.com/wvqoak8QMV— MLB (@MLB) April 12, 2018
The beaning was a response to what Boston deemed a dirty slide by Austin in the game’s third inning. The pinstripe-adorning infielder slid spike-first into Boston shortstop Brock Holt, lighting a fuse under the Red Sox dugout. Boston’s retaliation obscured a 10-7 defeat in which David Price lasted but an inning as the Red Sox starter, ceding four runs before exiting with a tingling sensation in his pitching hand.
APRIL 17: Before injuries derailed his rookie campaign, Shohei Ohtani was generating buzz in ballparks around the globe. Fans were especially enthusiastic about seeing the Angels’ prized player face off against Boston’s torrid lineup in Anaheim on April 17. Though Ohtani didn’t live up to his billing, allowing three runs in two innings before exiting with a blister on his pitching hand, Betts provided enough entertainment to cover the both of them. Betts christened the contest with a leadoff homer in the top of the first, then added two more bombs for good measure as Boston breezed past Los Angeles, 10-1.
APRIL 21: Not much to see here save for the first no-hitter thrown against Boston in 25 years. Oakland’s Sean Manaea did the honors, though the southpaw wasn’t aware of his nearness to the feat until the seventh or eighth inning, he said postgame. Manaea figured a dropped pop-up in the fifth had put an end to his hopes. But the play was ruled an error, allowing Manaea to finish the job four frames later on a Hanley Ramirez groundout that sealed the 3-0 win.
MAY 2: When Betts begins to percolate, the homers come in waves. Betts belted three solo shots in a 5-4 victory over Kansas City, recording his fourth three-homer game and second of the young season. More notably, the performance broke Ted Williams’s franchise record for three-homer contests. Displaying the humility he’s become known for postgame, Betts reflected on his feat. “He hit .400 in a year and did a whole bunch of things I haven’t done,’’ said the right fielder. “Just to know my name is amongst his is pretty cool.’’
MAY 5: Kimbrel became the quickest closer to notch 300 career saves in MLB history, needing only 11 pitches to complete a perfect ninth in Boston’s 6-5 win at Texas. Kimbrel struck out two in his 494th career appearance and 330th save opportunity. The flamethrower tallied 186 saves for Atlanta and 39 in one season as a San Diego Padre before joining the Red Sox in 2016. Said Kimbrel after the game, “It feels like forever, and also feels like it’s flown by.’’
MAY 25: This particular Friday was a hectic one in Red Sox nation. First, Boston announced it was designating Hanley Ramirez for assignment, signaling the end of his time in a Red Sox uniform. Later on that evening, Boston’s two primary mashers — Betts and Martinez — hit their 17th and 16th homers respectively, propelling the Red Sox to a 6-2 win over Atlanta. Newly appointed full-time first baseman Mitch Moreland proved he was fit for the gig, adding a blast of his own.
JUNE 28: First, there was the jaw-dropping grab in centerfield.
Super Jackie back at it again. pic.twitter.com/2FnGTSSnA6— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) June 28, 2018
Then came a crucial two-run homer. Boston’s 4-2 victory over the Angels on June 28 served as a rare gold-star effort amid an arduous season for Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. With Justin Upton batting in the first inning, Bradley leaped into Fenway Park’s center field wall as if armed with a Velcro suit, tracking and snaring the sharply struck ball, his limbs splayed across the dark green surface. Bradley then bested Los Angeles reliever Noe Ramirez in the bottom of the seventh inning, his two-run shot proving the difference in Boston’s triumph.
JULY 2: In perhaps the oddest game Boston played during its first half, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello stole the show for unexpected reasons. Facing off as a hitter against Washington ace Max Scherzer, Porcello mustered the swing of his life, lofting a three-run double onto the outfield grass at Nationals Park. The extra-base hit, which gave Boston most of what it needed for a 4-3 victory, was made sweeter because of Porcello’s friendship with Scherzer. The two were teammates in the Detroit Tigers rotation from 2010-14. Porcello told himself to start swinging once Scherzer reached the top of his windup. Said Boston’s starter, “I got lucky.’’
JULY 12: Major League Baseball doesn’t channel its counterparts in the film industry by honoring excellence with an awards show and some golden statues. If it did, “Best At-Bat of 2018’’ would be a downright lock. I wrote extensively about Betts’s 13-pitch battle with Toronto’s J.A. Happ at Fenway Park, one that culminated in a dynamic go-ahead grand slam. The monster shot sent a burst of energy through the Fenway grounds, making for one of the more electrifying moments in recent Red Sox history.
Markus. Lynn. Betts. pic.twitter.com/GneepBjQmW— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) July 13, 2018
JULY 14: How many slams is too many? The Red Sox don’t want to find out. This time it was Bogaerts delivering the honors with a walkoff shot in the 10th inning as Boston again downed the Blue Jays. It was Boston’s first game-ending grand slam since Jim Rice did so on July 4, 1984, and Bogaerts’s third of the season. After the postgame hubbub calmed, Boston’s shortstop credited his preferred walk-up song — DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It To Ya’’ — as invigorating him ahead of his big at-bat.