Image credit: Pete Alonso (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Alonso snuck past Carlos Santana in the first round, hitting the winning home run with one second left. He added another buzzer beater in the second round, hitting the winning home run as time expired to dispatch Ronald Acuna Jr.
And in the finals, the Mets rookie wunderkind, who made his name as a prospect with his prodigious power and set the franchise’s rookie home run record by the All-Star break, finished off Vlad Jr. in stunning fashion with 23 home runs, including the winner with 18 seconds remaining to become the 2019 Home Run Derby champion.
“It’s survive and advance,” Alonso said. “You’ve got to go in with kind of a killer instinct. It doesn’t matter how many you hit, you just need to have one more than the guy you’re facing.”
Alonso became the second rookie to win the Home Run Derby after Aaron Judge in 2017.
Everyone expected that rookie to be Guerrero Jr. after the show he put on.
The youngest participant in Home Run Derby history, Guerrero set the event records for most home runs in a single round (29) and most home runs overall (91) in an exhilarating performance.
He announced his presence immediately and emphatically in the first round. Guerrero’s first home run traveled 462 feet and hit the base of the scoreboard. His third home run went 476 feet. His fourth went 472 feet. And on and on it went, with sweet swing after sweet swing producing majestic shots into left field until Vlad Jr. had the record for most home runs in a round with 29.
“I just feel proud because I broke the record,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “It makes me feel great.”
Guerrero did it again in the second round, bashing 29 more home runs. He needed every one of them to hold off Joc Pederson, who hit 29 home runs to match him.
Then came the good stuff.
Guerrero and Pederson each hit seven home runs in the ensuing swing off, forcing a second tiebreaker. Guerrero hit the scoreboard again during the extra session with a monstrous 488-foot blast.
Each player got three swings to hit as many home runs as they could beginning in the second tiebreaker. Guerrero and Pederson each homered once, sending it to a third tiebreaker.
There, Guerrero finally prevailed, homering on his first two swings to put Pederson in a hole. Pederson homered on his first swing, hit a liner on his second and, with the crowd holding its breath in anticipation of a possible fourth tiebreaker round, hit a grounder on his third swing to send Guerrero to the finals.
“I was kind of scared for him to beat me,” Guerrero said. “Going back and forth, back and forth, it was tiring, but in the end I won.”
No matter what happened in the finals, Guerrero by that point had ensured his performance would be remembered forever.
“I heard a lot of stuff before, people were talking trash that (Guerrero) shouldn’t be in here and he proved a lot of people wrong,” said Astros infielder Alex Bregman, who was eliminated by Pederson in the first round. “He showed the world that he’s coming. (He’s going) to be a superstar in this league for a long time.”
All the while, Alonso was stalking. His 14-13, last-second victory over Santana drew a hearty round of boos from the Cleveland faithful who were rooting for their hometown representative.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be booed at a Home Run Derby, to be honest with you,” Alonso said. “But I guess that’s the hometown home cooking.”
Alonso delivered another buzzer beater in the semifinals, beating Acuña Jr., 20-19, as time expired.
And then came the finals. Guerrero overcame visible fatigue to pound out 22 home runs to open the round, but Alonso came out and quickly made up the deficit, sending the winning shot 429 feet into the left-center field stands and tossing his bat up in exhilaration.
“This year, it’s just been so special,” Alonso said. “I’ve been living a fantasy.”
Guerrero’s 488-foot home run was the longest of the night. Alonso posted the highest exit velocity of any player at 113 mph, a mark he reached twice.
On a night historically dominated by veterans, it was two rookies who seized the show and provided the highlights that will remembered for years to come.
“Incredible,” Bregman said. “It’s just great. It’s young guys that are just absolute monsters.”