He and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the youngest participant ever in the event at 20 years old, were putting on a show. After a 4-minute 30-second round, a 60-second swing-off and a three-swing tiebreaker couldn’t determine a winner, Pederson needed another home run in the second three-swing tiebreaker to keep alive his bid for the title and a $1-million prize.
The Dodgers slugger had homered with his first hack and hit a line drive to right field with the second. But the third was a ground ball, finally concluding the round and pushing Guerrero to the final with a 40-39 win. The Toronto Blue Jays third baseman would go on to lose to New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso 23-22 despite hitting 91 home runs in the three rounds — crushing the previous record of 61 set by Giancarlo Stanton in 2016.
“Pretty exhausting, but it’s all worth it,” Pederson said. “It was a lot of fun and exciting. That’s why you sign up for it. It was fun to compete out there. I loved it.”
There, he met Guerrero, the mesmerizing rookie and son of a Hall of Famer. Guerrero was the eighth seed because his eight home runs in 61 games were the fewest, but he was not an underdog. He had set a record with 29 home runs in the first round to beat Matt Chapman. He followed it up with another 29 in the second round to dig a deep hole for Pederson.
Raking the grooved pitches of Dodgers third base coach Dino Ebel, Pederson answered with 14 home runs before using his timeout with 1:58 remaining. He proceeded to smack 15 more, crushing the 15th as his time expired to send the matchup to a 60-second swing-off with the scored tied 29-29.
Guerrero recorded eight home runs, and Pederson responded again. His eighth sailed over the right-field wall as time expired. When it landed, the crowd erupted. A three-swing tiebreaker followed. Both hit a home run on their first swing and didn’t hit another, forcing another tiebreaker.
This time, Guerrero homered with his first two swings, upping the challenge. Pederson’s first swing produced a home run, but he couldn’t repeat the outcome. Guerrero rushed over to bear hug a sweaty Pederson at home plate in celebration.
“It was special,” Pederson said. “That’s the youngest guy to hit in the derby. He’s got a beautiful swing, obviously, and it was fun.”
The final pitted the two rookies, and Alonso, who has 30 home runs this season, prevailed.