Deep goes Frazier! Reds star KOs Derby field
Cincinnati third baseman electrifies home crowd throughout night, edges Pederson for title
CINCINNATI -- Todd Frazier had the joint jumping, his home crowd behind him screaming and exactly the right flair for the dramatic on Monday night. Not only did Frazier not disappoint, the Reds third baseman put on a tremendous show to win the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders at Great American Ball Park.
The capper was a bonus-round shot into the left-field seats to defeat Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson, 15 homers to 14, in the finals as the stadium roared with approval and fireworks filled the sky. Frazier loved having the sold-out crowd in his corner all night.
"Just hearing the crowd roar, call my name, adrenaline," Frazier said. "And those last minutes of each round really picked me up and [helped me] drive the ball out of the park a lot more. It was a lot of fun. I appreciate that a lot."
Frazier, who was the Derby runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes last year in Minneapolis, became the third Reds player to win a Home Run Derby, following Dave Parker, who won the first one in 1985, and Eric Davis in '89. Frazier is also only the second player from the host team to win, the first since the Cubs' Ryne Sandberg in 1990. Frazier was presented with the Home Run Derby trophy by MLB executive Joe Torre.
"Bringing this hardware home is something I've always wanted to do and it's just an unbelievable feeling," Frazier said. "Once I wake up in the morning, understand really what happened, it is going to be exciting to see this in my house."
The Derby caught its first break when rain held off until well after the event ended. Then new rules in place for 2015 added timed rounds of four minutes and an eight-player single-elimination bracket that proved instantly popular. That change played into Frazier's hands as he batted second in each round as the higher seed.
Frazier, the No. 2 seed, defeated Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder in the first round and then knocked out Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson in Round 2.
All three rounds required a lot from Frazier to overcome his challenger. Fielder hit 13 homers in the opening round. Frazier was able to equal the two-time winner with his 13th coming with seconds remaining, landing in the left-field seats. After a brief break before bonus time, Frazier crushed home run No. 14 on his first swing to defeat Fielder.
"Two-time champion, that's huge," Frazier said. "The format fit well. I honestly didn't know how many I was going to need. Thirteen, in these Derbies now, usually gets you past. I started off slow and got into a little groove."
In Round 2, Donaldson got off to a slow start, but he rallied to hit nine homers. He also knew he was not the crowd favorite.
"Honest to God, I didn't even know who I was going up against in the second round, but after 30-40 seconds into it, I could start to hear people boo me," Donaldson said. "Then mid-swing, I was like, 'Oh, I'm going up against Frazier.' Good for them. He put on an awesome performance tonight."
The crowd chanted "Let's go Frazier" as Frazier sat on eight homers with a minute remaining. But with 11 seconds to spare, homer No. 9 came, followed by No. 10 just as time expired, landing in the left-center-field bullpen as Reds fans screamed.
Pitching to Frazier for the second time in the Derby was his brother, Charlie. The two tried to keep the flow going in all three rounds.
"We wanted to work fast," Charlie Frazier said. "We didn't want to put any thinking involved. We just wanted to put as many pitches as we can. He was swinging at everything -- you could see that -- even if they were low or high. So we just got on the same pace."
The left-handed Pederson set another high bar and opened the finals with 13 homers. Needing two to tie with 40 seconds left, Frazier hit one to left field for 13. He tied Pederson with 14 with 10 seconds remaining.
On the first swing of his 30-second bonus came No. 15 -- and a perfect ending for Cincinnati. Triumphantly, Frazier lifted a championship belt like a wrestler. His favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, played in the ballpark -- "I did it my way." He did indeed, with panache.
It's been a trying first half for the Reds, who are below .500 and struggling. Trade speculation of top players, but not Frazier, is rampant. For one night -- that was way in the background. Cincinnati fans had their winner right in front of them on what proved to be a magical night.
"This is the way you play the game," Frazier said. "You play for your family, your friends because you love the game. Your fans are right behind you in your court. We're having a tough year this year, let's be frank. Still got a lot of games to go. That Wild Card can come real quick. You saw what the Dodgers did one year. You never know what's going to happen."
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