Todd Frazier bests Joc Pederson for home run derby crown

Joc Pederson may have snapped the run of Dodgers’ futility in the home run derby, but there was no stopping hometown hero Todd Frazier on Monday night in Cincinnati.

Early on, Pederson looked like the odds-on favorite, as he cruised past Manny Machado in the first round, hitting 11 home runs in three minutes and blasting the longest shot of the night at 489 feet.

Meanwhile, Frazier needed some last-second heroics to top two-time champ Prince Fielder, squeaking by, 14-13. Albert Pujols, another favorite entering the night, had a little trouble besting young slugger Kris Bryant, who could only muster nine home runs in his derby debut.

Pujols took time to get going, but eventually shot past Bryant. On the other side of the bracket, Bryant’s Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo fared even worse. Leading off the night, Rizzo was the first batter to find out what the four-minute time limit was like, and he expended too much energy early on trying to get as many swings as possible. Josh Donaldson had no trouble topping his mark of eight homers.

In the semifinals, Frazier once more needed a walk-off homer to advance, smacking his 10th of the round to top Donaldson. Meanwhile, in the battle for Los Angeles, Pederson got off to a rocky start before regaining his form and once again impressing with his effortless swing and ability to hit to all fields.

Pujols was hindered by batting glove troubles in his turn at the plate, and despite a late surge, he could not catch Pederson, who became the first Dodger to ever advance to the finals and hit by far the most home runs in franchise history. The next closest was Hee-Seop Choi, who hit five home runs in 2005.

In the final, Pederson started poorly once more, but at one point hit six home runs in a row, then called a timeout and hit four more in succession. Frazier looked like he would be unable to match the final total of 14 two minutes into his round, but he went on a hot streak, feeding off the energy of the crowd to tie things, before winning it with his first swing of the bonus 30 seconds.

***

Reds third baseman Todd Frazier stormed back from an enormous deficit to top Joc Pederson and win his first home run derby in dramatic fashion.

After Pederson hit 14 home runs in the final, Frazier stepped to the plate with the support of the hometown Cincinnati crowd. In the first minute, Frazier had three home runs, then grabbed two more immediately after, including an opposite field fly ball that just barely made it over the fence. He took his timeout with 2:35 remaining.

For the next 30 seconds, he was cold from the plate, but with half of his original four minutes gone, he began to find his stroke. He collected eight home runs in that span to tie Pederson. With his final swing, he sent a long fly just a few feet short of the right field wall.

However, Frazier had the extra 30 seconds given for hitting two home runs of 425 feet. In fact, every single hitter got the bonus on the night.

He didn’t need 30 seconds. All he needed was one swing to send a ball into the right field bleachers, the fans into hysteria and Pederson away empty-handed. It was the third straight round in which Frazier hit a home run to win it in the closing seconds.

Frazier is the first hometown player to win the home run derby since Ryne Sandberg did it for the Cubs in 1990. He came up short a year ago against Yoenis Cespedes in the final.

***

Joc Pederson finishes with 39 total home runs after the final round. He had the longest home run of the evening at 489 feet and knocked off Albert Pujols on his way to the semifinals. Now he’ll wait and see if Todd Frazier can top his 14 homers from the final round.

His first home run came a minute in, but he then hit six straight in a span of 30 seconds, a combination of moonshots and line drives, all to right field. He took a timeout with 2:11 remaining and came back to hit four more in a row. From there he cooled off slightly, but still finished with 13 after four minutes.

In his bonus time, he grabbed one more to put his final total at 14 for the night. That mark is tied for the highest total of the night, with Frazier’s first round mark.

Pederson was the only batter tonight to win when batting first when he topped Pujols.

***

On three swings, Albert Pujols had three home runs to start his round and put Joc Pederson on notice. But from there on, he had trouble getting elevation on his hits, sending grounder after grounder into left field. Ultimately, it was too much to overcome, and despite a late rally, he finished with 11 homers, one behind Pederson.

At several points, Pujols seemed displeased with his batting gloves, one of which was causing him to slip and top the ball. He took a timeout with 2:11 remaining, and later stepped out of the box to adjust them. Unlike every other hitter, Pujols also took multiple pitches without swinging.

Pujols is now winless in four home run derby attempts. He said before Monday that it was unlikely he would return again. He was bidding to become the first Angel to win the competition since Vladimir Guerrero did in 2007.

Pederson advances to the final, where he will try to become the first Dodger to ever win a home run derby. No other Dodger has ever even made the finals. In order to do so, he will have to top Todd Frazier, the Cincinnati Reds’ third baseman and darling of the home crowd. Through the first two rounds, they have been almost dead even, with Pederson hitting 25 home runs to Frazier’s 24.

***

After a blazing start to the first round, Joc Pederson needed some time to get going in the semifinals. After three swings, he still did not have any homers.

He finally got on the board with a blast to right, then went the opposite way to left-center for his second, but those were his only home runs of the first minute. He collected one more before taking a timeout with 2:20 to go.

The break took some time to have its effect, but in the final minute, Pederson exploded for four home runs to put his four-minute total at nine.

He had no trouble collecting the 30-second time bonus, and put it to good use, collecting three extra homers to put his final total at 12. His longest homer of the round was 448 feet, but he impressed by going to all fields and consistently going deep in all parts of the ballpark.

***

Todd Frazier sent Great American Ball Park into hysterics in the first round, coming back to top Prince Fielder in the final seconds. He must have liked the feeling because he did it again in the second round. As the clock hit zero, his tenth and winning home run fell into the bullpen in left field.

After a slow start that saw him ripping more groundballs than home runs, Frazier found his groove midway through the second minute. In the span of three swings, he had three home runs, before taking his timeout with 1:50 to go and down 9-7.

Once again he went cold at the plate, not even earning the 30 second time bonus until there was fewer than 40 seconds left. Then, he suddenly found his stroke again, tying the round with less than 10 seconds with a shot to center.

Frazier advances to the finals for the second year in a row. Last year, he was runner-up at Target Field in Minneapolis. He will face the winner of the battle of Los Angeles: Joc Pederson or Albert Pujols.

***

Josh Donaldson had the fewest home runs of any winner in the first round. And then he hit the same number in the second. With only nine home runs, Donaldson will now have to hope Todd Frazier cannot match his first round total of 14.

Donaldson’s first swing was a home run, but from there, he sent sky high shots that ate up time but stayed in the outfield. He collected three home runs within the first 65 seconds, but got only five more for the remaining 2:55.

He took his timeout at 2:11 to try and regroup, but never got in a groove, much to the delight of the Cincinnati crowd, who is cheering for his opponent, Reds third baseman Todd Frazier.

Donaldson is the 11th Blue Jay to compete in the derby, the most of any franchise. Toronto has never had a champion, though.

***

Albert Pujols, the top home run hitter in the American League, snuck by Kris Bryant with a last-second blast to hit his 10th homer of the night and advance to the second round.

With 2:23 left to go, Pujols called a timeout with only three home runs. After Bryant’s performance, many assumed Pujols would advance easily, but he got off to a slow start, swinging well but hitting line drives instead of elevated blasts.

Back from the timeout, he still took time to get going, collecting three home runs in the next minute. Finally, with less than a minute remaining, he found his stroke, slamming three home runs to tie it. At 20 seconds, he stepped out of the box and took a pitch to gather himself.

Then, with one second remaining, he connected perfectly on a blast to left-center field to clinch it and avoid the pressure of a 30-second do-or-die bonus period.

With the win, Pujols sets up an all-Los Angeles semifinal against Dodger Joc Pederson. On the other side of the bracket, Josh Donaldson will face local favorite Todd Frazier.

***

Kris Bryant, making his home run derby debut 87 days after his major league debut, put out the second lowest total of any of the first round competitors, smacking nine home runs.

Considered one of the biggest bats among young prospects, Bryant did have the fewest home runs this season amongst the participants. He collected two home runs in each minute of his first four, taking a timeout with 1:59 to gather himself.

Following the impressive display of power from fellow rookie Joc Pederson, Bryant alternated hard rips that stayed in the park with moonshots that ate up precious seconds in hang time.

With his father pitching to him, Bryant collected one more homer with his extra 30 seconds.

***

Consider the Dodgers' home run derby curse officially broken. It took Joc Pederson less than a minute to surpass the previous Dodger record of 5 home runs from Hee-Seop Choi, and only 2:55 to top Manny Machado.

From the first swing, he was on a roll, with all but one home run going further than 400 feet. Pederson leads the majors in average distance for homers this season, and he backed that up by going for an average of 420 feet on Monday, including a 487-foot blast that left the stadium.

At 1:28 to go, Pederson had 11 home runs, just one behind Machado. He took a timeout, came back and knocked out two quickly before the minute mark could elapse.

Pederson was the earliest batter to finish and has the second most home runs of the first round so far, behind Todd Frazier, who needed more than four minutes to hit 14.

With the win, Pederson becomes the first Dodger to advance to the second round, where he will face the winner of Albert Pujols-Kris Bryant.

***

Manny Machado, the youngest player in the derby, collected four home runs in the first 2:10, sending them all to left or left-center field. He then took his timeout, but came out slowly after the break.

Machado, not known as a power hitter as much as the rest of his competitors, averaged only 387.3 feet on his homers before the All-Star break, but lengthened that to as much as 469 feet on Monday. In the final 30 seconds, he connected on three homers to make it to double-digits.

With his extra 30 seconds, he collected two more homers to put his final total at 12. Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson is his opponent.

***

Todd Frazier drew roars from the home crowd with every homer, drawing energy to rally from a deep deficit with a minute and a half to go and tie things with Fielder at the end of his four minutes.

Off his rhythm early, alternating homers with weaker hits, Frazier took a timeout with about 90 seconds remaining, and came back rejuvenated, averaging 435 feet on his homers, all of which went to left field.

Frazier also earned an extra 30 seconds, but benefitted from some short home runs as well, including one fly ball that landed in the glove of a fan in the first row from the fence.

Then, on his first swing of the extra 30 seconds, he sent a 455-foot bomb into left-center to clinch the victory and knock of two-time champ Prince Fielder. He’ll face Josh Donaldson in the semifinals.

***

Two-time champion Prince Fielder got off to a strong start, becoming the first hitter on the night to reach double-digits with 12 dingers alone in his original four minutes. Those shots pushed him past three-time champ Ken Griffey Jr. for most all-time in the derby. He also added one extra with his additional 30 seconds.

Fielder combined moon shots of 466 feet with line drive blasts of 380 feet that just made it out of the park. If he wins, he would join Griffey as the only three-time winner. In order to do so, he would have to defeat hometown hero Todd Frazier.

***

Josh Donaldson knocked out Anthony Rizzo in the first round of the home run derby, collecting nine home runs in just over three minutes, 30 seconds.

Donaldson got off to a quick start, collecting three home runs on his first four swings and reached seven within the first two and a half minutes before he called a timeout.

The distance Donaldson was getting on his homers would certainly have qualified him for a 30-second time bonus, but with a minute to go, he was all but set to pass Rizzo. 

A blast that traveled 468 feet hooked just foul with 45 seconds to go, but Donaldson rebounded with another 400-foot shot 15 seconds later to clinch the victory. He will face the winner of the Prince Fielder-Todd Frazier matchup.

***

Anthony Rizzo started off the home run derby in his matchup with Josh Donaldson with eight homers, kicking off a derby with strange new rules that took some time to get used to.

Rizzo had four minutes to hit as many long balls as he could, with no outs to worry about. He started off by getting out in front of most of his early pitches, not getting anything over the fence for the first minute.

He took his 45 second timeout, and then visibly settled down, getting his first home run with 2:46 left and then breaking out for six more.

Due to the new rules, he received 30 seconds of bonus time for hitting two home runs of 425 feet. He connected for one more homer in that time.

***

Despite tornado watches and flash flood warnings, the sky has cleared over Cincinnati for the home run derby. The rule changes to condense the event will still be in effect: four minutes on a running clock for each batter, and 30 extra seconds for two home runs over 425 feet.

***

As if the rule changes weren’t enough, now rain has complicated the home run derby even more.

Cincinnati has hosted the All-Star game once, in 1988, since the home run derby began in 1985. That year has the distinction of being the only time over the past 30 years the derby was cancelled by rain. Tonight, the forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms. The area is under a flash-flood watch until 8 p.m. EDT, when the derby is scheduled to start.

Major League Baseball has announced the derby will go on, but because of the weather, several rules will be changed to condense the event.

In the past few years, MLB has tinkered with the format in order to cut down on time and increase drama. Last year, that meant switching to a tourney-style bracket with individual showdowns.

This season, the rules have changed again, making things all the more complicated. Instead of using the traditional method of “outs” — any swing which does not produce a home run — this year’s derby will be timed. Each batter will receive four minutes to take as many swings as they would like.

Hitters can also earn extra time for especially long home runs. Two long balls of at least 425 feet each will earn an extra 30 seconds. The distance-related bonuses will be judged by MLB.com’s Statcast. Each participant also gets one timeout per round.

Originally, each batter was supposed to have five minutes, with the clock stopping during the final minute whenever a participant hit a home run. Players would have also received an extra 30 seconds for one home run longer than 475 feet, and the time bonus for two home runs of 425 feet was supposed to be a full minute.

The seeding for the tournament was determined by players’ home run counts so far in the season.

Albert Pujols, who is third in the majors and first in the AL in homers, has the top seed and a first-round matchup with one of the most exciting rookies in baseball, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.

Bryant has only 12 home runs so far this season. Pujols had 13 in June alone, tying a franchise record for long balls in a month. Pujols is already a three-time veteran of the derby, with his last appearance in 2009. His best finish came in 2003, when he lost to Garrett Anderson in the final.

Joc Pederson will represent the Dodgers tonight. He leads all MLB rookies in home runs with 20, five more than the next closest player. He will also face another young third baseman, Baltimore’s Manny Machado. Machado has 19 home runs on the year.

The distance bonuses are ideal for Pederson, who leads the majors in average distance on his homers, according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker. On average, his home runs travel 430.5 feet, compared with 387.3 for Machado.

Pederson will have to break a long stretch of futility for Dodgers in the home run derby to have any success, though. Last year, Yasiel Puig failed to hit a single long ball. In 2011 and 2012, Matt Kemp hit for a combined three home runs. In the 30-year history of the event, a Dodger has never advanced to the second round or finished in the top four.

If Pederson does advance, he will face the winner of the Pujols-Bryant matchup in the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, hometown favorite Todd Frazier has a difficult first round ahead of him, as he tries to knock off two-time champ Prince Fielder. Fielder is listed by oddsmakers as the 15-4 favorite.

Anthony Rizzo, the other corner of the Cubs’ young infield, will face Josh Donaldson, third baseman for the Blue Jays. They eachhave averaged more than 400 feet on their home runs this season.

The top two sluggers in the game, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton and Washington’s Bryce Harper, are both missing from the derby due to injury. Stanton has a broken left hand, and, though Harper is injury-free, he passed on the derby in part because his father, who would have pitched to him, is recovering from rotator cuff surgery.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

2:55 p.m.: Updates with details of changes to Home Run Derby rules because of weather.

This story was originally published at 1:21 p.m.

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