ICYMI: Top 10 thrills from fantastic first half
The one problem with a 2,430-game schedule, abundant with awesomeness, is that some really special stuff can too quickly become a distant memory. So with the rare respite provided by the All-Star break, we thought we'd take a moment to look back at the top moments from a 2017 season already packed with history and heroics.
Here are the best 10, listed in chronological order:
April 25: Chris Coghlan's somersault score
Professional baseball goes back to the 1800s. You would think by now we've seen just about every way there is to score a run. But somehow, a 32-year-old utility man did something none of us had ever seen when he invented the somersault "slide" -- a direct leap over the head of a standing Yadier Molina. The acrobatic Coghlan made contact with Molina's helmet, allowing the perfect angle for him to stick the landing and score a pivotal run in the Blue Jays' 6-5 win. The play was so rare, Toronto pitcher Marco Estrada said it was like seeing "a unicorn."
April 30: Anthony Rendon has himself a day
The Nationals' offense put up some absolutely silly numbers at the start of the season, but nothing was sillier than what Rendon accomplished in a single afternoon against the rival Mets. Rendon went 6-for-6 with three homers, a double, 10 RBIs and five runs scored. The only other player in history to have a game with six hits, three homers and 10 RBIs was Walker Cooper for the Reds on July 6, 1949. Rendon was also just the fourth player in the modern era to go 6-for-6 with at least three homers, joining Ty Cobb (May 5, 1925), Edgardo Alfonzo (Aug. 30, 1999) and Shawn Green (May 23, 2002).
May 29: The Astros' crazy comeback
There were a few unreal rallies in the first half, including the Indians turning a 9-2 deficit into a 15-9 win over the Rangers on June 26 and the Yankees' 14-11, extra-innings win over the Orioles on April 28 after trailing 9-1 earlier in the night. But this one from the Astros takes the comeback cake. It was 8-2 in the eighth when Houston came to bat on this day in Minnesota. Over the previous 55 years (Hint: Not a small sample), the Astros had gone 0-659 when entering the eighth down by six runs. But of course, Houston's 2017 squad is unlike any other in franchise history, and this one rallied back with an 11-run inning in which 13 men came to the plate. And why stop there? The Astros added three more in the ninth for the 16-8 victory.
June 3: Edinson Volquez's emotional no-no
Volquez's dominance of the D-backs (no hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts on 98 pitches) was the only no-hitter of the first half. But what made it even more memorable was the timing of the task. Volquez was super close with late Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura from their shared time in Kansas City, and his no-no came on what would have been Ventura's 26th birthday. It also came at the home park of Jose Fernandez. Volquez dedicated his performance to the two young men we lost far too soon.
June 3: Jose Pujols' grand gesture
Only eight previous players had hit 600 home runs. None had done it with a grand slam. Leave it to Pujols to put himself on a short list within a short list. His granny off Ervin Santana was one of a record seven grand slams hit on this day, and it was certainly the most historic of the bunch. Pujols hit the break sitting just 96 hits shy of No. 3,000.
June 6: Scooter Gennett's improbable awesomeness
Two of the greatest single-day performances in the history of the game happened not just in the same season but in the same half of the season. The first was Rendon's, and the second was Gennett's out-of-nowhere 5-for-5, four-homer, 10-RBI night against the Cardinals. Only 16 other men had hit four homers in a game, and only five other players since 1913 had at least 17 total bases in a game. Add in the sheer implausibility of it all -- Gennett is a 5-foot-10 utility man who had only hit 38 homers in his career and came in 1-for-his-last-20 -- and this was definitely an all-timer.
June 9: The Freeze brings the heat
Aaron Judge was not the only superhero to emerge in the first half. Nigel Talton, aka The Freeze, wearing aqua spandex and goggles, had been racing fans at Braves home games throughout the 2017 season. But it wasn't until this night that he became a viral sensation. His opponent was given at least a 200-foot head start, but The Freeze closed in on him. And after the fan got overconfident and began to wave his arms up and down, looking for applause from the crowd, The Freeze overtook him, the fan tripped and a legend was born. The Freeze became so popular that he was invited to the All-Star Game, but, well, that race didn't go as well for him.
June 18: Nolan Arenado completes "cycle for the ages"
Has there ever been a cooler way to hit for the cycle? Arenado did it at Coors Field with a walk-off three-run home run to beat the Giants. His teammates mobbed him at home plate, and Arenado came out of the raucous celebration with a cut over his eye and blood on his jersey. Verdict? Worth it!
June 20: Cody Bellinger blasts his way into the books
By this day, Bellinger had already become the fastest player in history to 21 career home runs, among many other milestones. But in this game against the Mets, Bellinger added another long ball to complete a sensational stretch in which he went deep 10 times in 10 games -- the only rookie in MLB history to achieve such a feat. Bellinger went 16-for-43 with three doubles and 18 RBIs during that span.
July 10: Judge wins the T-Mobile Home Run Derby
Monday's performance is only days old, but we'll be talking about it for years. Judge, in part because of that 495-foot homer that cleared the Yankee Stadium bleachers on June 11, had so much hype preceding his Derby debut, and his first-round opponent -- the hometown Marlins' Justin Bour -- hit 22 homers in 4 1/2 minutes. Those are tall orders to live up to, but, well, Judge is taller than everybody and everything. His towering blasts and effortless ability to flick the ball to the opposite-field upper deck allowed him to beat Bour, fellow first-half sensation Bellinger and Miguel Sano to claim the first of what might be multiple Derby crowns. Not a bad way to cap an electric first half for the Yankees' American League MVP Award candidate.