Pete Alonso won the 2019 Home Run Derby, but it was the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. show on Monday night in Cleveland.
Not to take away anything from the Mets rookie first baseman, who hit 23 home runs to beat his fellow rookie Guerrero in the final round. But just like the 2008 Home Run Derby is more remembered for Josh Hamilton’s record round than Justin Morneau winning the event, this night 11 years later belonged to the runner-up.
Guerrero and Joc Pederson needed three extra periods to decide their record-breaking second-round matchup, but with it we finally reached the pinnacle of the Home Run Derby, in the fifth year of the revised rules that allowed for this type of competition.
The round took 5½ minutes of homering time for both players, then not one but two swing-offs of three swings each. In the end, both hitters were exhausted after 79 total home runs, and their embrace looked like not only a hug of mutual respect but one that helped both remain upright.
“I feel bad for him, he has to keep hitting,” Pederson told Jessica Mendoza on ESPN. “I’m toast.”
They were both tired after setting records in the second round. Guerrero is just 20 years old but already gaining legendary status for his batting practice exploits. It translated into a 29-homer first round to beat Matt Chapman, more than any other round in Home Run Derby history.
To top that, Guerrero went first in his second-round matchup with Pederson, and matched his record with another 29.
UNREAL!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 9, 2019
Vlad Jr. hits another 29 homers in the second round pic.twitter.com/EnO0g7AhlY
In a year with souped-up balls flying out of the park during real games at unprecedented rates, it was expected we’d see some incredible numbers on Monday. But Guerrero and Pederson took it to the next level. Pederson, who hit 21 home runs to beat Alex Bregman in the opening round, had to tie or break a derby record in the second round just to stay alive.
And he did.
Pederson hit his own 29 home runs to match Guerrero, though briefly at least on ESPN it was thought Pederson had a winning total of 30. But that was not the case, and the tie meant both would get another minute to determine a winner.
It was still not enough, as both hit eight home runs in the extra time. It’s a 37-37 tie at this point. Keep in mind the previous record for home runs in any derby round was 28.
Pederson’s teammate Clayton Kershaw was going to head to dinner with his family, but his kids implored him to stay to finish Pederson’s round.
Those who stayed were not disappointed.
After the extra minute failed to determine a winner, we got our the first instance of the second tiebreaking procedure, and the coolest of all: THE SWINGOFF. Both players get three swings, un-timed (meaning they could let pitches go with no penalty) to determine a winner.
You won’t believe this, but a single swing-off could not decide a winner. Guerrero for the first time didn’t set a huge number, hitting just one of his three swings out. But Pederson couldn’t take advantage, also hitting one of three out.
In the second swing-off, Guerrero hit his first two balls out of the park, then Pederson hit his own first swing out as well. Needing one to tie, Pederson’s two final swings remained in the park, ending the carnage.
The final tally: 40 home runs for Guerrero, 39 for Pederson, in the second round alone. Guerrero hit 91 home runs in his three rounds, 30 more than any other player has ever hit in a single Home Run Derby.
It didn’t give us a tournament winner, but the second round between Guerrero and Pederson produced a round we’ll never forget.