Sano so close, falls to Judge in Derby finals
Twins slugger edges Moustakas, Sanchez in first 2 rounds, tops out with 491-foot homer
MIAMI -- A dark horse in an event where Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge consumed most of the pre-swing hype, Miguel Sano, as a first-time participant in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, emerged as its runner-up.
Seeded fifth in the competition, Sano knocked out Mike Moustakas and Gary Sanchez on his way to meeting Judge in the final round at Marlins Park on Monday night. There would be no upset -- Judge surpassed Sano's total of 10 finals home runs with plenty of time to spare. But on a night that served as a showcase for some of the game's young power hitters, Sano solidified his place among them.
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"Especially for him, the first time in the All-Star Game and to be up there and hit all those long balls, I think it's big time for him," said former Major Leaguer Fernando Tatis, who served as Sano's offseason trainer over the winter and his Derby pitcher on Monday. "I think to be up there and be in the Derby and compete with all those big guys is completely amazing. It's something that he really needed because of the type of hitter that he is -- a power hitter."
In a finals matchup that featured the two players with the highest average exit velocity in the season's first half, Sano set the benchmark with his 10 home runs. Though Sano's longest homers came earlier in the night, he averaged 417 feet and an exit velocity of 106.4 mph in that last round.
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"I competed the best I could over there," Sano said. "What I can I say about that? He's an animal. The first time I saw Aaron Judge hit BP, I could tell he was a monster."
Sano hit 32 homers in all. They covered a distance of 2.5 miles, with his longest traveling 491 feet. His exit velocity peaked at 113 mph with one of his 11 semifinal swings. All of Sano's homers went to left or left-center field, and four of the round-trippers he hit went longer than the longest regular-season homer of his career at 464 feet.
"It was a big moment for me and my whole family," Sano said. "I prepared myself to come here for the Home Run Derby. I'm here because I wanted to compete with [Judge]."
• Sano found lightning both in his bat and outside the field
To get to Judge, Sano first had to scoot past two worthy challengers. The first of the eight participants to take a swing, Sano opened Derby night by edging out Moustakas, 11-10. Twenty-seven seconds into his first round, Sano got on the board with a 446-foot blast. Three of his next four homers traveled even farther, including a 470-foot shot that clanked off the glass windows beyond the left-field seats.
Moustakas fell a few feet short of tying Sano with his final swing in the first round. The difference proved to be the extra 30 seconds Sano earned by hitting two homers at least 440 feet in his initial four minutes of time. Sano tallied his final two during the bonus period.
Sano did not need any additional time in the semifinals, where he stepped in knowing that 10 was the number to beat. Sano did so with 43 seconds left on his clock. He crushed a 491-foot homer -- the seventh-longest home run of the night -- and bounced another off the left-field foul pole. The home run that sent him into the finals -- a 392-foot shot to left field -- was his shortest of the round.
Sano, who said he would love to participate in the Derby again, insisted nerves never set in. The same couldn't be said by Tatis, who wanted to make the most of an invitation to appear on a stage he never reached during an 11-year career.
"It's a great feeling for me," said Tatis, still the only player in MLB history to hit two grand slams in one inning. "[I played] a lot of years in the Major Leagues and never being able to make it to the All-Star Game, and here we are. It was a great moment."