Cespedes edges Harper for title in Home Run Derby
NEW YORK -- Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes capped an impressive power-hitting display Monday night with a 9-8 win over Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in the championship round of the HomeRun Derby at Citi Field.
Cespedes wowed the crowd with 17 first-round homers but looked rusty in hitting just six second-round homers following a 92-minute break. He regained his first-round form in a hurry, though, upon stepping to the plate at 10:47, six minutes after Harper completed his hacks.
Cespedes hit a line-drive homer to left field on his first swing. He didn't homer on three of his next four swings but then hit three deep homers on his next three swings. After barely missing a homer on his ninth swing -- the ball bounced off the center-field wall -- he homered on four of his final five swings, with each blast more impressive than the last.
On his final swing, Cespedes hit the ball off the black just below advertising signage in center field. He flipped the bat in celebration and watched it leave the park before embracing American League teammates.
Cespedes won the title with five outs to spare. He finished with 32 homers.
Cespedes became only the second Oakland player to win the Home Run Derby. Mark McGwire was the champion in 1992 -- three months before Harper was born.
Harper opened the championship round with a flourish by homering on his first three swings. The first two homers landed in almost the same spot in the upper-right-field deck while the third one bounced off advertising signage in right-center field.
After three straight outs, Harper alternated homers with outs on his next six swings. His seventh homer, which almost cleared the seats in right-center field, was the most impressive blast of the championship round.
Harper was trying to become the youngest Home Run Derby champion, as well as the first member of the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise to win.
Cespedes, the final player added to the AL squad by captain Robinson Cano and just the fourth player in the 28-year history of the event to make a Derby team without being on the All-Star team, ensured himself a spot in the finals with a dazzling first round in front of a sellout crowd of 43,558.
Cespedes hit 17 homers in the first round alone, more than any other competitor had in the first two rounds combined. And few of Cespedes' homers resembled "cheapies." He hit at least five homers into the left field third deck and another one off the façade.
The 17 homers were the most in the first round since Josh Hamilton's record-setting 28-homer burst at Yankee Stadium in 2008.
Harper advanced to the finals against Cespedes with 16 homers -- eight in each of the first two rounds. He outlasted the Rockies' Michael Cuddyer (15 homers) and AL home run leader Chris Davis (12 homers) of the Orioles.
Cuddyer homered seven times in the first round and eight times in the second. Davis, who tied an American League record with 37 homers before the All-Star break, hit eight homers in Round 1 but just four in Round 2.
The captains and hometown favorites, Cano and Mets third baseman David Wright, were the final two batters to step to the plate in the first round. Cano finished last with four homers and Wright tied for next-to-last with five.