The second round of the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby was, dare I say, the very coolest sequence in the history of the event. Pete Alonso beating Ronald Acuña Jr. on his final swing was very cool, but the real show was the insane dong-off between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays and Joc Pederson of the Dodgers.
Vlad set a derby record with 29 home runs in the opening round, and then tied that record—and established a new semifinal record—in the second round. Pederson, who socked 21 dingers in the opening round to beat Alex Bregman, followed Vlad’s second-round performance with 29 of his own, to force a tie-breaker. MLB settles these tie-breakers with a one-minute bonus round, where the clock cannot be stopped for rest or extended via 440-foot bombs.
Vlad went first, and socked another eight home runs, bringing his total for the round up to 37. The pace of that tie-breaker performance is pretty amazing, especially for a guy who’d already hit 58 homers in one evening. Pederson, like a true boss, was not intimidated:
With the round tied again at 37 home runs apiece, the next phase of the tie-breaker was a swing-off, where each batter was given three untimed swings and the chance to hit a maximum of three dingers. In the first of these, Vlad and Joc each hit one dinger, setting up an improbable third tie-breaker, in the form of a second swing-off. This time, at long last, Yung Vlad prevailed, after the two men had crushed 79 dingers between them. Here’s that final tie-breaker:
The finale was almost anticlimactic after this ridiculous, exhausting back-and-forth. Vlad hit another 22 dingers, but a relatively fresh Pete Alonso—a fellow rookie—socked 23 with plenty of time to spare, producing the hilarious and unfair-seeming result of Guerrero losing the Home Run Derby despite hitting a whopping 91 home runs on the night. Last season Bryce Harper won what now seems like a downright quaint and boring derby with less than half Guerrero’s total; Alonso won Monday night despite hitting 34 fewer dingers than the runner up. Vlad’s 2019 total is 30 more than the next closest in the history of the derby, and he did not win.
Ultimately those details are unimportant. Alonso is a worthy champ, but the derby exists to produce memorable moments more than it does to produce champions. What people will remember of the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby is Vladimir Guerrero putting on a show for the ages, and Joc Pederson matching him dinger for dinger during an epic and unprecedented semifinal. Don’t take my word for it!