Rarely is the word “legendary,” used to describe the annual Home Run Derby, but Monday’s battle at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio was indeed legendary.
Los Angeles Dodgers infielder/outfielder Joc Pederson, and Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. put on an epic performance in the semifinals round before the Mets’ rookie eventually defeated an exhausted Vladito in the Finals.
Pederson was competing in his second Home Run Derby after finishing second to Todd Frazier in the 2015 contest, which ironically was also in Ohio, albeit at Great America ballpark in Cincinnati.
Pederson must have drawn the short straw, as he went first overall in the competition, kicking off the Derby with 17 home runs in four minutes. The format for the Derby changed in 2015 for the first time, and each contestant receives a 30-second bonus for hitting two home runs of over 440 feet.
Pederson easily reached the bonus, and hit four more homers in the bonus round, giving him a first round total of 21, a record for the first round under the new format. Pederson advanced to the semifinals after his competitor, Houton Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, finished with 16 total homers without reaching the bonus.
Pederson’s record-breaking round didn’t last long, as 15 minutes later, Guerrero Jr. shattered the record with 29 first round homers, the most ever hit in any round (under any format) in Home Run Derby history.
Both Pederson and Guerrero Jr. advanced to the semifinal where they put on a show for the ages. Vladdy Jr. went first, and matched his first round total with another 29 home runs.
Most believed there would be no way Pederson would surpass that record-breaking total, but with one-million dollars on the line, and his older brother, Champ Pederson, in attendance, Pederson tied the record with 29 home runs of his own.
In what quickly became the most intense, dramatic, and insane round of the Home Run Derby we’ve ever seen, Pederson and Guerrero Jr. each took turns matching each other in three different tiebreaking rounds.
The 2019 Home Run Derby rules called for both competitors to each have a one-minute tiebreaking round, followed by a total of three swings each in the following tiebreaker rounds until there was only one player left standing.
Guerrero Jr. ultimately bested Pederson by hitting two home runs in three swings in the fourth tiebreaker round, finishing the second round with a total of 40 homers.
Pederson finished one homer short, with 39 homers in the second round, and a total of 68 home runs overall in a losing effort. The most home runs hit by a competitor who did not reach the finals in Home Run Derby history.
It’s a shame that the epic battle between Pederson and Guerrero Jr. was not the final round, as both Vladito and Alonso appeared to be exhausted in the Finals, each falling well short of the record-breaking 29 homers in a round.
After hitting just 22 homers in the Final Round, Guerrero Jr. was bested by Alonso, the man nicknamed “The Polar Bear,” who hit 23 homers without needing to use his 30-second bonus. The “Home Run Derby Champion” chain, and a check for $1 Million dollars went to 24-year-old power hitter.
The 2019 MLB All-Star Game between the American League and National League will take place at 5:00PM PT on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 on FOX.
Photo Credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images
Source: NBC Los Angeles