Vladimir Guerrero steals the show | News Coverage from USA

Vladimir Guerrero steals the show

No one – not Josh Hamilton, not Mark McGwire, not Giancarlo Stanton – has ever dominated the All-Star Home Run Derby the way Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did by hitting an astounding 91 homers Monday night in Cleveland.

In the end, it took a record-breaking performance by Pete Alonso of the New York Mets to beat him.  

Reaching the finals against his fellow rookie, Guerrero simply ran out of gas following his history-making early-round exploits as Alonso won the title 23-22. Alonso’s 23 home runs were the most ever hit in a Home Run Derby final. 

Guerrero — at age 20, the youngest player to participate in the Derby — set a record for homers in one round with 29 in his opening session.  The Toronto Blue Jays third baseman then matched it with 29 more in his initial semifinal round.

The lowest-seeded hitter in the field due to his modest total of eight round-trippers during the regular season, Guerrero’s homers averaged 422 feet in each of his first two rounds.

That, despite the disadvantage right-handed hitters face at Progressive Field, with its 19-foot-high left field wall. 

Improbably, lefty-swinging Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson matched Guerrero blast-for-blast in a thrilling semifinal round with 29 dingers of his own, necessitating a one-minute swing-off for the right to advance to the finals.

In rapid-fire fashion, Guerrero hammered another eight over the fence, including a 488-foot blast – the longest of the competition. Yet Pederson rallied for eight more of his own, the last one barely clearing the right-field wall as time expired.

Like heavyweights battling toe-to-toe in the final rounds, the two sluggers each connected once in a three-swing tiebreaker, sending them to another extra inning. Guerrero set the bar high with two more to give him a total of 40. Pederson could muster only one as Guerrero advanced to face Alonso in a matchup of two rookies who were part of last year’s All-Star Futures Game.

Guerrero, whose Hall of Fame father Vladimir Sr. won the 2007 All-Star Home Run Derby in San Francisco, finished the competition with 91 total home runs — the most by any participant in history and far surpassing the previous record of 61 by Stanton in 2016. 

Guerrero also had the seven hardest-hit balls of the evening in terms of exit velocity, with a high of 115 mph.

And perhaps the most important stat of all (at least for the participants): Alonso took home a $1 million prize for winning the title. As rookies, both Alonso and Guerrero have salaries of $550,000 for the entire 2019 season. 

Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner

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