Yankees’ rookie plays Judge, jury and executioner in Home Run Derby

July 10, 2017

MLB

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New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge smiles as he competes during the MLB baseball All-Star Home Run Derby, Monday, July 10, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

By Morris Phillips

Back-to-back shots, 504 feet, then 513 feet?

That’s crazy, and that was Aaron Judge on Monday night in Miami, crushing baseballs in the Home Run Derby above and beyond the most prodigious feats ever in the event’s history.

In excess, and as a preface, to Judge being crowned champion of the Derby, the Yankees rookie survived an epic opening round, hitting 23 home runs after Justin Bour of the Marlins hit 22.

The much-anticipated matchup of Judge and hometown hit man Giancarlo Stanton didn’t materialize, as Stanton fell in the first round to Judge’s New York teammate, Gary Sanchez. Miguel Sano of the Twins outlasted Sanchez in the semifinals to reach the finals opposite Judge.

All four first round matchups were cliffhangers, decided by one home run, which in some respects robbed all the drama what transpired after that. Sanchez (18) and Sano (11) both posted totals that Stanton and Sano’s initial opponent, Mike Moustakas fell just short of matching. Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies and Bour posted totals, that were eclipsed, just barely, by Cody Bellinger and Judge.

If most of the drama was contained in round one, then the remainder was spent in round two, along with all of the fireworks courtesy of Judge. In defeating Bellinger, Judge clubbed 12 homers, half of which traveled at least 445 feet, and three of the last four went over 500 feet. Judge’s tie-breaking blast traveled 507 feet and bounced high off the Marlins Park glass facade in left field.

“I don’t know what to say,” a disbelieving Bellinger said. “What do you say after those balls?”

In Bellinger’s case, the answer was ‘say good night.’ In both of the initial rounds, Judge went last and eclipsed his opponent’s total without needing the 30-second bonus he earned.

In the final round, Sano went first and hit 10 home runs, and Judge followed with 11, ending the competition with nearly two minutes remaining on his clock.  Like Bellinger, Sano expressed his respect for his competition who, according to Sano, may have lapped the field before the competition commenced.

“The first time I saw Aaron Judge hit BP, I could tell he was a monster,” Sano admitted.

Judge’s four 500-foot blasts registered as the longest ever in the Derby’s history. With the new rules that give each competitor a definitive time block, Judge had no incentive to pad his totals, still his first round total of 23 ranks third all-time behind Josh Hamilton (28, 2008) and Bobby Abreu (24, 2005).

“It was a blast,” Judge said. “I enjoyed every minute of it–watching the other guys swing, coming here early and talking to the media. Everything about today was fantastic.”

The competition figured to be epic with the largest field–by the combined height and girth of the eight competitors–ever assembled. Led by the Bunyanesque Judge who is 6’7″, 282 pounds, Stanton (6’6″, 245) and Sano (6’4″, 260) the anticipation for the event was at level above normal.

For sure, those that watched the event from its first launch were not disappointed.

 

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