CLEVELAND -- When asked about what the world should expect out of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman adjusted his hat, cracked a smile and quickly responded with “history.”
“Something special, for sure,” Stroman said early Monday. “I witness it every day. I witness his batting practices and they’re incredible. I get to see it daily, but I’m excited for the world to see it.”
The world certainly witnessed history on Monday and an unforgettable performance from one of the young stars that baseball has to offer, as Guerrero finished an epic run with 91 total homers but was defeated by Derby champion Pete Alonso, who hit 23 in the final round.
“First of all, you just have to thank God and the fans for all the support,” Guerrero Jr. said after breaking the record. “We gave everyone a good show, and that’s what we wanted. … I feel proud of hitting 91 home runs because I broke the record.”
At 20 years and 114 days, Guerrero Jr. became the youngest participant in the history of the Home Run Derby. But it didn’t take Vlad Jr. much time to set more records with his bat.
En route to beating Oakland’s Matt Chapman in the first round, Guerrero Jr. launched 29 home runs, the most in any round in Derby history, surpassing Josh Hamilton’s 28 home runs in 2008, although that was done in the previous format that changed in ‘15. In the current format, Giancarlo Stanton held the record with 24 in ‘16.
Vlad Jr. then matched his own record in the second round, finishing with another 29. He nearly reached 30, but his last drive of bonus time scraped the left-field wall, falling just short.
Guerrero Jr., however, was matched by his opponent, Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson, who hit a last-second home run to send the matchup into a tiebreaker round. Vlad Jr. added eight more home runs to his total, giving him a total of 66 home runs, surpassing Stanton’s single-Derby record of 61 from ‘16.
Once Pederson matched Guerrero Jr. again in the second tiebreaker, the pair went to a three-swing swing-off, which initially had both sluggers finishing with just one home run on their three swings. In the third tiebreaker, Guerrero Jr. homered on two of his next three swings, which led to some “Let’s go, Vladdy!” chants from the soldout crowd at Progressive Field.
Pederson responded with just one home run, allowing Guerrero Jr. to advance to the Derby final after a historic battle.
“That wasn’t exciting because you just want to win,” Guerrero Jr. said, with a smile. "He kept tying me and I was just scared that he was going to beat me. I told him, ‘I thought you were going to beat me,’ and he said, ‘You beat me, but I was already exhausted.’”
Pederson added: “Yeah, that’s pretty exhausting, 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.”
The first home run Guerrero Jr. hit on Monday was recorded at 462 feet and he didn’t stop there. Just two home runs later, Guerrero Jr. deposited a 476-foot home run deep in the left-field bleachers. At one point in the round, the 20-year-old had four consecutive swings that ended in a home run.
He recorded 24 home runs in the first four minutes of the first round and added five more in the additional 30 seconds he earned for hitting a pair of home runs more than 440 feet.
Of the 29 home runs hit in the first round, Vlad Jr. finished with five home runs over 450 feet and eight over 440 feet. His average home run distance was 421.5 feet and the average exit velocity was 104.8 mph.
In the historic round against Pederson, Vlad Jr. launched a Derby-high 488-foot home run. His average home run distance in the round was 422.8 feet and his average velocity remained the same at 104.8 mph.
As he entered the finals, Guerrero Jr. acknowledged that he was tired after the epic second round, but noted that his offseason workout program, which included taking 1,500 swings on a daily basis with heavy bats, is much tougher than what he had to endure on Monday night.
“I got tired, but that’s not why I lost,” Guerrero Jr. said. “There are no excuses. [Alonso] hit more home runs than me and he won.”
Despite not walking away as the champion, Guerrero Jr. broke the record for most home runs in any round (40) and in total (91), led the Derby with 27 home runs with a distance of 440 feet or more, and starred in one of the best battles in Derby history.
What did Vlad Jr. enjoy the most?
“Beating Pederson,” he said with a laugh.
And it was a win that nobody will ever forget.