Joc's Derby duel with Vlad Jr. is one for the ages

July 9th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Dodgers slugger did what he has done a lot on this magical season. He brought people out of their seats. He took their breath away.

In one of the most memorable showdowns in the history of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, Pederson and 20-year-old Blue Jays rookie went toe to toe on Monday night.

That Guerrero eventually prevailed may not be remembered as vividly as how it played out. Frame this one and remember it. Savor the highlights. This event, which has gotten bigger and bigger through the years, won’t get any better than this.

“Yeah, that’s pretty exhausting,” Pederson said, “but it’s all worth it. It’s a lot of fun. It was exciting, and that’s kind of what you sign up for. It’s fun to compete out there, and I loved it.”

Pederson got past Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, 21-16, in the opening round. He then watched as Guerrero led off Round 2 with 29 home runs, matching his record-setting first round.

But Pederson hit 29 of his own, the last one landing in the right-field seats as time expired, forcing a 60-second swing-off. They each hit eight, forcing a three-swing tiebreaker. The both hit one, bringing their totals to 38 heading into another three-swing tiebreaker.

Finally, Guerrero hit two home runs while Pederson hit one, giving the rookie a 40-39 victory and a spot in the final against eventual champion Pete Alonso.

In the wake of the epic duel, the two players embraced happily at home plate as a huge crowd at Progressive Field stood on their feet and cheered.

“It was special," Pederson said of the epic showdown. "That’s the youngest guy to hit in the Derby. He’s got a beautiful swing, obviously. It was fun.”

Plenty of others in the National League and American League clubhouses understood they’d witnessed something epic even before the Alonso-Guerrero final.

“It was awesome,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said. “It’s great for the game. Great for the Home Run Derby. I think everybody in the crowd was standing. It was fun to watch. It was amazing. I think that’s what everybody bought a ticket for, and they definitely got a show.”

Pirates first baseman Josh Bell spoke with some of the same excitement in his voice: “It’s hard to explain. That was one of the craziest back-and-forths I’ve ever seen. That was like Mike Tyson and Holyfield -- two heavy hitters. I didn’t know who was going to take it. Joc put on a show, and Vlad took the cake. To be right there on the field and hear the balls off the bat and feel the crowd was great.”

Dodgers fans can be proud that their 27-year-old lefty slugger put on an amazing display of power and timing, first in eliminating Bregman, then in launching 40 more home runs to bring a standing ovation from the crowd and players gathered in front of the two dugouts.

“I just wanted to win,” said Pederson, who entered the All-Stark break with 20 home runs -- six away from his career high -- and an .855 OPS. “It was a grind there at the end. I’m kind of speechless, but I really enjoyed it.”

Asked whether this Derby was different from 2015, when Pederson was the runner-up to Todd Frazier in Cincinnati, he said: “Not really. You just want to go in there and compete. It’s hard, you get gassed. It was a blast.”

Pederson led off the event and started the opening round match against Bregman slowly, hitting just four home runs in the first 90 seconds before taking a timeout before finishing fast.

Did he make adjustments?

“There’s a lot of nerves going into it,” he said. “You’ve got to slow down and get in a groove.”

He eventually did that and proceeded to deliver baseball a magical moment. His 99 home runs between the two Derbys are the most in the history of the event, but it was his matchup with Guerrero people are unlikely to forget.

“Incredible,” Dodgers teammate Cody Bellinger said.