Ten Most Memorable Moments of First Half of 2019 Season
Ichiro Suzuki, Image by Keith Allison
The first half of 2019 gave us some real entertainers and some real tearjerkers. Narrowing down the top ten was no easy task, so in fairness, I’ll start with a few honorable mentions that did not quite make the list.
The Braves Comeback, April 20
In the craziest comeback so far, the Braves faced the Indians in the second game of a series in Cleveland. After a sloppy start, which included a wild pitch resulting in a run and Touki Toussaint’s hitting batters three times in two innings, the Braves went down 7-0 at the end of the second. The Braves held the Indians after that but only scored three runs before the ninth. Down four, they loaded the bases, and Ozzie Albies stroked a line drive down the first baseline to score two. With the bases loaded again, Freddie Freeman walked, scoring one to make it 7-6. Ronald Acuna Jr. then blasted a base hit to left field to score two, giving the Braves the lead. A.J. Minter held the Indians, and the Braves won it 8-7.
Manny Machado’s first home run as a Padre, April 3
After the hype last year about where Machado would land when he was an Oriole and then a rental to the Dodgers, he finally signed with the Padres for a ten-year $300 million contract. His first home run as a Padre off Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff marked a special moment for baseball aficionados.
Moncada and Sanchez turn a triple play, May 23
In the bottom of the third inning, leading 1-0, the White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada and second baseman Yolmer Sanchez turned a triple play against the Astros. Only two triple plays occurred all last year.
Now for the top ten moments of this year’s first half of the season:
#10 Kevin Pillar makes wall-climbing save, May 4
Giants center fielder Pillar made a blooper of a save after climbing the wall to rob the Reds’ Nick Senzel of a sure homer.
#9 Bryce Harper makes 264-ft throw from right field, May 20
Next to Machado, no other free agent signing took a higher profile than Harper’s. Although he hasn’t produced at the plate as much as Phillies fans expected, nothing ill can be said of his defense. Here’s a sample from May when he made a near-football-field-length throw for a double play against the Cubs.
#8: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is called up by the Toronto Blue Jays, April 26
The number one prospect in the league at the end of last year and all this year until called up, the son of Hall-of-Famer Vlad Guerrero Sr. made his debut on April 26 against the Oakland Athletics. Many expected him to be called up last year, but his stint at Triple-A Buffalo where he hit .367/.424/.700 and notched three homers in 30 at-bats only added to the anticipation. In his debut, he went 1 for 4 with a double in the ninth. His performance has so far been mediocre, but his second-place finish in the Home Run Derby laid to rest any concerns that he didn’t belong there or that he has lost the stuff he showed in the minors.
#7: Ichiro Suzuki retires at age 45 in Japan, March 21
A month before one possible future Hall-of-Famer entered the game, one definite future Hall-of-Famer made his exit. The first to make it big in the Majors, Suzuki completed his career fittingly in front of his fans in Tokyo in this year’s Opener between the Mariners and Athletics. After playing in 28 professional seasons, nine in Japan and 18 in America, he went out with a total of 4,367 hits. In the bottom of the eighth, Manager Scott Servais called the other eight players off the field, allowing Suzuki to take a standing ovation as he left the field for the final time. Mariners Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. awaited Suzuki at the dugout and embraced him after his teammates had done the same.
#6: Joc Pederson hits a two-run walk-off home run against the Reds, April 15
Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig were both traded from the Dodgers to the Reds last year, and this was their first time back to Dodger Stadium. In what looked like karma, Puig hit a home run and Kemp hit an RBI in the top of the ninth. Alas, the soon-to-be home run derby semifinalist Pederson had to spoil everything by hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the home team the 4-3 win.
#5: Cardinals Matt Carpenter bunts for a double, June 17
Facing a shift after he hit a home run in his first at-bat, Carpenter squared around for a bunt to try for a base hit. His bunt reached the outfield, and he managed to turn it into a double. He reached home after a Marlins error and his Cardinals won the game 5-0.
#4: Hunter Renfroe hits a walk-off grand slam, May 5
After losing a lead three times, the Padres were one out away from being swept by the rival Dodgers. With two outs, bases loaded and trailing 5-4, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got Renfroe down in the count 0-1. He never made it to 0-2 because Renfroe crushed an inside cutter to give the Padres the 8-5 win. Having likely expected the worst, the Padres fans brought the house down.
#3: Paul Goldschmidt turns his first homer as a Cardinal into three, March 29
The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt last year from the Diamondbacks and inked him for a five-year extension for $130 million. Against the division-rival Brewers, Goldschmidt hit his first home run as a Cardinal in the second inning. He wasn’t finished, though, and hit two more late in the game, each off different pitchers, showing Cardinal fans that the front office knew what it was doing. His three homers contributed to a 9-5 win.
#2: Cardinal fans welcome Albert Pujols back to St. Louis, June 21
For eleven years, Pujols awed Cardinal fans with consecutive fabulous performances in the red and white, including two National League MVPs. He returned in a different red and white uniform for the first time in seven years and gave Cardinal fans a chance to show their true class and character. They did not disappoint. No grudges were held as they welcomed him to thunderous applause with each at-bat, including a one-minute salute before his first at-bat that only ended when he stepped into the batter’s box. They even rooted for him against their own team. The fans rose to their feet when he hit a home run and even booed their own pitcher when he struck out. It all worked out well for the fans in the end, though. They got a chance to cheer on one of their former greats and still took the series 2-1 against Pujols’s Angels.
#1: Angels and Rangers mourn Tyler Skaggs, July 2
I would be remiss to ignore the tragic passing of the Angels’ starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs and only focus on the entertaining moments of the first half of this year. But this list is not of the greatest moments, but of the most memorable.
The empathetic reaction that the Rangers organization and fans showed toward the visiting Angels after they lost their beloved pitcher on July 1 must be commended. The game scheduled that night was canceled but the Angels suited up the following night for what must have been the hardest game any of them have ever played. The Rangers painted 45 on the mound to commemorate the Angels’ fallen teammate, and the teams held a moment of silence before the game. The Angels won 9-4 and took the series 2-1. Angels Manager Billy Ausmus called the game “a refuge because it takes your mind off it, distracts you for a little while.”
Although MLB attendance is slightly down this year compared to last year, the first half of this season has been highly entertaining and competitive, particularly in the National League Central. It has, however, also included its share of heartwarming and tragic moments. These ten moments make my list of the most memorable thus far. What are yours?
Author: Jacob Grandstaff
Jacob Grandstaff is a co-founder of YourWorld Media. He graduated in 2015 from the University of North Alabama with a B.A. in history. He taught high school before attending the National Journalism Center in 2017 where he wrote for Capital Research Center. He lives in the Washington, DC area and enjoys writing about history, sports, and current events.