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LEEInks list: Best Red Sox performances of first half

07.14.10 at 11:13 am ET
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Rookie Daniel Nava's grand slam vs. the Phillies was one of the highlights of the first half of the Red Sox' season. (AP)

Though the Red Sox are 88 games into the season with another 74 to go, the All-Star break generally is regarded as the midway point of the season. As such, it’s time to reflect on what’s been largely considered an up-and-down season for the Sox. With a large number of injuries handcuffing the team from the beginning of 2010, the fact that the Red Sox have largely remained in contention is nothing short of amazing. In honor of that, we’ve come up with a list of the best single-game performances from the first half of the season, divided by pitching and offensive performances.

Looking back on Boston’s 51 wins, there have been players that have stepped up and filled holes, especially from the rookie replacements. The interesting thing to note is that between the six All-Stars on the team (Dustin Pedroia, Víctor Martínez, Adrián Beltré, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester), only four of them account for the 10 performances on our list.

Let’s kick off the list with a few honorable mentions, starting off with Opening Night:

John Lackey, April 7 vs. Yankees: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 K, 2 BB

On Opening Night, John Lackey showed why he was one of the big-name acquisitions during the offseason. Unfortunately for everyone involved, this first game would be Lackey’s best outing of the year.

Jon Lester, May 25 vs. Rays: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 9 K, 5 BB

Lester has had an amazing year so far. So much so, that he’s motivated his bullpen to continue his work. April 25 was the perfect example, as Lester only allowed a single to Willy Aybar in the fourth and that was it. Lester pitched six innings, then handed it to the ‘pen. The relievers didn’t allow another hit for the rest of the game.

Clay Buchholz, May 29 vs. Royals: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 K, 4 BB

If Lester’s been amazing this year, Buchholz has been Cy Young-like this year. Just four days after Lester’s game, Buchholz took the mound and handled the Royals with ease. He allowed some sporadic hits over seven before delicately handing the 1-0 lead to the dynamic duo of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, who successfully got the hold and the save, respectively.

Bill Hall, June 3 vs. A’s: 4-for-5, 2 RBI, 2B, HR, (a triple shy of the cycle)

While Hall has served as a role player for a team devastated by injuries at every position, he has been the only hitter so far this season to come close to one of the achievements many well-rounded players strive for and many of them don’t get — the cycle. Hall got three legs of the cycle — a single, double and home run, but missed the hardest leg, the triple. Going 4-for-5 will just have to do.

Adrián Beltré, June 29 vs. Rays: 4-for-4, 2 2B

Beltré could be considered a strong candidate for MVP (by the time of this game, he was pulling a .349/.387/.561 line, and he’s been above .300 since April 26), more so for offense than defense. Here, Beltré had a perfect day at the plate, going 4-for-4 — something rare for this team this year. Despite his perfect day, Beltré remarkably had no RBI during the 8-5 win.

Eric Patterson, July 5 vs. Rays: 3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2B, 2 HR

Another defensive replacement, this time for Dustin Pedroia, Eric Patterson is considered in the same vein as Bill Hall — a quality utility player who can fit any role needed in the infield or outfield. While he was brought on for his adept fielding and speediness on the base paths, Patterson did have a powerful game the day after the Fourth of July. Patterson legged out a double after slamming home two homers to right field. The performance was bittersweet though; Patterson did well, but the Sox lost, 6-5.

Pitchers:

Jon Lester, April 28 vs. Blue Jays: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 11 K, 2 BB

In what was his first win of the season, Lester shut down the Jays, only giving up a hit to Vernon Wells to lead off the second inning. The bullpen didn’t disappoint either, as Daniel Bard only gave up a leadoff double to Alex Gonzales in the eighth. Those were the only two hits the Jays had all night.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, May 22 vs. Phillies: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 5 K, 4 BB

It should be seen as ironic that the one pitcher who has been doubted all season was the only one to come even close to a no-hitter — and on national TV. Daisuke showed shades of his former self in his interleague opener, throwing 7 2/3 no-hit innings before giving up a single to Juan Castro.

Tim Wakefield, May 23 vs. Phillies: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 K, 1 BB

A day after Matsuzaka’s mastery, the Phillies must have been happy to move on to the slower Wakefield, but they were only halfway through the battle. They fared better by getting four more hits, but they were shut out over eight innings again. Needless to say, the Phillies were glad to see the Sox head out of Citizens Bank Park after that game.

Clay Buchholz, June 4 vs. Orioles: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 K, 1 BB

The last time Buchholz threw a complete-game shutout was in 2007, for his no-hitter … also against the O’s. This one wasn’t quite a no-hitter, but sometimes you can’t complain about what you’re given.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, June 7 vs. Indians: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 K, 2 BB

Matsuzaka makes the list for the second time. This one wasn’t a near no-hitter, but Daisuke can take pride in the fact that over his eight shutout innings, he never allowed more than one hit per inning and he only allowed one runner to get beyond first base — Trevor Crowe when he stole second in the bottom of the third.

Hitters:

Darnell McDonald, April 20 vs. Rangers: 2-for-2, 3 RBI, HR,

The first of two outfield replacements this season for the Sox, McDonald wasn’t even expected to be given a chance. He quickly changed that thought by hitting the game-tying home run in his first Red Sox at-bat in the bottom of the eighth. McDonald topped that an inning later by hitting the game-winning single with two out in the bottom of the ninth to snap the Sox’ five-game losing streak.

Mike Lowell, May 3 vs. Angels: 4-for-4, 4 RBI, 3 2B, BB

Lowell did his best in the early part of the season to show that he can still play. On May 3, he had a career day, going 4-for-4 and looking like a young kid by racking three doubles. This game was largely forgettable for Joe Saunders. He was roughed up by the Sox for seven runs and nine hits over four innings. The Sox won, 17-8.

Víctor Martínez, June 1 vs. A’s: 5-for-5, 2 RBI, 4 2B

If anything, Martinez loves hitting doubles. Only a couple of weeks earlier against the Twins, he went 3-for-4 with three doubles. Martínez topped that against the A’s, going 5-for-5 with four doubles, tying the single-game doubles record for a catcher.

Daniel Nava, June 12 vs. Phillies: 2-for-4, 4 RBI, HR, 2B, K (grand slam on his first major league pitch)

On a rainy and overcast day in Boston, a 27-year-old rookie from California captured the imagination of thousands. Fans were just getting settled in when Nava stepped up to the plate in the second inning with the bases loaded and none out. On the very first pitch he saw, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup slapped one into the right field home bullpen for a grand slam. Nava followed that up with a line drive double off the Green Monster, but the impressions of Nava already had been set. He hasn’t left the club since.

Dustin Pedroia, June 24 vs. Rockies: 5-for-5, 5 RBI, 2B, 3 HR

If one player could be considered the team’s leader/cheerleader/mascot, it would be Dustin Pedroia. When he’s played, he’s regularly been the team’s best player. When he’s off the field, he’s supplied the media with quality quotes and entertainment. After already getting the media well acquainted with the “Laser Show,” Pedie showed the crowd in Denver the “Rocket Show.” He was the second of two Red Sox players to get five hits in a game, but the only one all year to get three home runs, including the go-ahead, game-winner in the 10th. Next time, Jeff Francis and Huston Street will know better than to keep pitching to him.

Read More: clay buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, red sox