Cuban slugger repeats home run derby victory with 28 blasts
MINNEAPOLIS – Yoenis Cespedes knew how to pace himself in this rain-delayed home run derby, drawn out further by a new format.
The Oakland Athletics outfielder simply trusted his own strength.
Cespedes became the first repeat winner of the All-Star skills contest in 15 years, powering his way past Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier 9-1 in the final round Monday night.
Ken Griffey Jr. took the title in 1998 and 1999.
With a serious, determined look on his face the whole time, Cespedes finished with 28 homers. That was four fewer than last year, when he beat Washington’s Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final round.
I’m somebody who’s very conscious of the power I have,” said Cespedes. “So I don’t need to put more of a swing or more of an effort in order to hit a home run. I just have to look for a good pitch and put a good swing on it.”
The 28-year-old saved his best for last, a 452-foot blast to the third deck above left field that officially measured as the longest of the night. A’s third base coach Mike Gallego again pitched to Cespedes, who went deep 32 times in last year’s derby at Citi Field in New York. Gallego’s arm looked nearly out of gas by the final round, which started after 10:30 p.m. local time.
Cespedes topped Toronto’s Jose Bautista, and Frazier surprisingly beat Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in the semifinals.
Bautista and Stanton each earned a bye to the semifinals under the new bracketed format, which gave each player seven outs and pitted the survivors from each side in the final round. Bautista went deep 10 times in the first round, keeping the fans in the second deck above left field on their toes, and Stanton hit six.
That was all for him, though. After a long wait for his next turn, Stanton put up a zero in the semifinals and let Frazier advance with only one.
Cespedes, who beat teammate Josh Donaldson in a tiebreaker after each finished with three in the first round, breezed by Baltimore’s Adam Jones in the second round. Frazier topped N.L. captain Troy Tulowitzki on the other side.
Colorado’s Justin Morneau, the fan favorite after 10-plus years and four All-Star games for the host Twins, was eliminated in the first round.
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, the smallest of the participants, also had the backing of the crowd with chants of his last name during his two-homer round.
The only player shut out? Dodgers sparkplug Yasiel Puig. He was the first homerless participant since Robinson Cano two years ago in Kansas City.