MIAMI -- Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez drew the unenviable task of attempting to oust defending champion Giancarlo Stanton in the first round of the 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night at Marlins Park.
Sanchez pulled off the upset of the night, defeating the top-seeded Stanton in the first round before falling short in the second round, eliminated by Miguel Sano.
"It felt great," Sanchez said. "I was really proud to be able to advance to the second round. Whoever they were going to pair me up with, I was going to give it my all."
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Sanchez, the No. 8 seed, put on a show in the first round to narrowly edge Stanton, 17-16, at the Marlins slugger's home ballpark. Sanchez entered the competition with only 13 home runs after missing most of April with a biceps injury, and his inclusion in the Derby field had been questioned by Rays first baseman Logan Morrison. But Sanchez proved he belonged, averaging an exit velocity of 109.5 mph and 443 feet per home run in the first round.
"I was having fun," he said. "I was happy the entire time. If [Stanton] was going to catch me, or if he was going to overtake me, either way, I was just having a good time."
Sanchez's longest blast traveled an estimated 483 feet, which at the time was the longest homer in Marlins Park since Statcast™ was introduced in 2012, though Yankees teammate and eventual champion Aaron Judge surpassed that in the second round. Sanchez's longest career home run in the regular season was measured at 450 feet.
Sanchez admitted that he got a little tired in the second round, when he hit only 10 homers. Sano defeated him easily by blasting 11 homers with 43 seconds to spare, advancing to the final vs. Judge.
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Sanchez, who made his Derby debut alongside Judge, was thrilled to see his teammate win.
"I'm very happy that Judge won the crown," Sanchez said. "I talked to him beforehand, and I said, 'If I'm not able to win it, I hope you win it,' so at this point, I'm really happy for him."
Though he fell short, Sanchez will leave the competition with a unique souvenir. He had Victus Sports create three custom bats emblazoned with a gold Kraken, the sea monster to whom Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has compared him. "El Gary" and "Release the Kraken" also figure prominently on the barrels of the bats, though Sanchez didn't use them during the Derby.
"I think they are pretty cool," he said.
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