The best moments from the first half of the MLB season

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Aaron Judge passes Joe DiMaggio for most HRs by Yankees rookie
Monday July 10th, 2017

On the final day of the first half of the regular season, Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland came two outs away from making history. On Sunday afternoon, the 24-year-old lefty held the White Sox hitless over 8 1/3 innings, only to see his hopes of throwing the second no-hitter in franchise history go up in smoke on a line-drive single off the bat of Melky Cabrera.

Freeland may have come up short—literally; Cabrera’s hit went just over the glove of a leaping Nolan Arenado at third base—but his near no-no was still one of the best moments of the season’s first half. As MLB settles into the All-Star break, let’s look back at the rest of the best from April, May, June and early July.

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April 3: Madison Bumgarner homers twice on Opening Day

It’s been a season to forget for both Bumgarner and the Giants: The former has missed most of the year due to a shoulder injury suffered in a dirt bike accident; the latter have fallen to the bottom of the NL West amid one of the worst stretches in franchise history. But Bumgarner, at least, will always have Opening Day, when he went deep two times against the Diamondbacks, becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to do so on the season’s first day. Bumgarner also took a perfect game into the sixth but lost it in a game that San Francisco blew in extra innings—a bad sign of things to come.

April 25: Chris Coghlan goes up and over Yadier Molina at home

The base-running play of the first half belongs to Coghlan, who got some serious air against the Cardinals when he essentially somersaulted over Molina to score a run for the Cubs. Call it a slide if you want, but Coghlan’s acrobatic hands-first flip was more something out of a circus than a baseball game. The truly amazing thing, though, is that he didn’t break anything on the way down (including an astonished Molina).

June 3: Edinson Volquez tosses season’s first no-hitter

Freeland was unable to finish the job on Sunday, but veteran righty Volquez was up to the task for the Marlins in early June, when he blanked the Diamondbacks to record 2017’s first (and only, so far) no-no. The history-making day was a surprise, and not just because the 34-year-old Dominican was amid a less-than stellar season after a rough 2016. Volquez nearly had to come out of the game after the very first batter, when he rolled his ankle covering first base. Limping visibly over the rest of the game, Volquez dispatched of Arizona in only 98 pitches and, after it was over, touchingly dedicated his performance to Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura.

June 4: Albert Pujols hits his 600th career home run

It’s understandable if you’ve forgotten about Albert Pujols. The future Hall of Famer’s time in Anaheim has felt like one long undistinguished coda to his brilliant stay in St. Louis. But the slugger keeps chugging along, even if he isn’t producing like his old self, and making history along the way. Case in point: his fourth-inning grand slam off the Twins’ Ervin Santana on a Saturday night at home to make him only the ninth man in MLB history to become part of the 600-home-run club. It’s unclear what future milestones we’ll get from Pujols going forward, so savor the ones like this.

June 7: Scooter Gennett goes deep four times

If you had, before the start of the season, picked Gennett as your choice to be the first four-homer man since Josh Hamilton in 2012, then you would’ve been rightfully called a crazy person. Well, you got the last laugh. Facing the Cardinals, the light-hitting Gennett—the owner of just 35 career home runs over his first four seasons—joined an exclusive club by going deep four times. The record-setting day has been part of a career year for the Reds’ utility man, who’s set a new personal best in home runs with 15.

June 11: Aaron Judge sends a ball 495 feet out

Judge’s season has been something out of a video game: The hulking Yankees rookie leads all of baseball with 30 home runs at the break and is the frontrunner for AL MVP honors. He even set a new single-season franchise record for homers by a rookie in the process—and we haven’t even reached the end of July. It’s hard to pick a single highlight from that kind of year, but let’s all take a moment to marvel at this prodigious blast against the Orioles. That massive shot cleared Yankee Stadium’s leftfield bleachers and measured in at a ridiculous 495 feet—the longest home run of the season so far.

June 18: Nolan Arenado hits a walk-off homer to complete the cycle

Most players will go their whole career without achieving either half of Arenado’s day, yet here’s the Rockies’ franchise player showing them just how easy it is. Against the Giants, Arenado tripled in the first, singled in the fourth and hit an RBI double in the sixth. Then, with his team trailing by two in the ninth, he whacked a three-run home run off Giants closer Mark Melancon to cap the cycle and the game. And though Arenado’s feat got him (unintentionally) bloodied by his teammates, he still got to save the day and make some history in the process.

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