A new era of slugging began with a hometown champion, as the Reds' Todd Frazier won the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders on Monday night at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.
Frazier captured the title in dramatic fashion in front of an adoring crowd by besting Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson, 15-14, in the final round. The Cincinnati third baseman, who hit after Pederson, tied the score with only 10 seconds remaining in regulation, then ended the festivities on his first swing during a 30-second bonus period.
As part of the new bracket format that debuted this year, Frazier won three head-to-head matchups, taking down the Rangers' Prince Fielder (14-13) and the Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson (10-9) before ousting Pederson, who hit 39 homers over three rounds. The competitors also dealt with other changes to the Derby, including timed rounds and bonuses for distance.
Due to inclement weather that hit Cincinnati earlier in the day, the five-minute time limit per batter per round was shortened to four minutes, a previously announced pause of the clock for home runs in the final minute was eliminated and a previously announced time extension for home runs exceeding 475 feet was eliminated and shortened to 425.
Rizzo: He got off to a slow start but bounced back strong following his timeout just one minute into the competition. After going homerless in the first minute, Rizzo connected for seven dingers over the next three minutes, while also earning 30 seconds of bonus time due to his extra pop.
Rizzo made good use of the bonus time, crushing one more homer to finish with a total of eight. Though he hit his stride following his timeout, the slow start proved to be the difference for the Cubs slugger.
LONGEST HR: 452 feet
Donaldson: The Blue Jays masher got off to a strong start, including a 465-foot blast into the upper deck in left field. Donaldson slowed down as the round went along, but he finally managed to break a tie with Bryant by smacking one 421 feet with 14 seconds remaining on the clock.
Fielder: He came out swinging in the first round, crushing a dozen homers in the allotted four minutes. Fielder easily earned the 30-second bonus time by hitting moonshot after moonshot, including a 474-foot monster drive for his second homer.
Fielder tacked on another homer during the extra time to finish with 13, putting some pressure on Frazier.
LONGEST HR: 474 feet
AVERAGE: 431 feet
Frazier: The hometown favorite started a little slowly, but then he got going, at one point reaching at least 420 feet with six straight homers. After tying Fielder in regulation, Frazier earned bonus time by virtue of his distance, and on his first swing during the 30-second period, he drilled the winning shot a round-high 455 feet.
Machado: The Baltimore infielder got off to a somewhat slow start, but he decided to power through it and save his timeout for later in the round. Machado ultimately hit five homers before calling his timeout with one minute and 50 seconds remaining in the round.
Machado really found his groove after the timeout, adding five more homers, including three straight at one point during the final 30 seconds. He tacked on another two during his bonus time to finish with a dozen.
Pederson: The Dodgers rookie put on a show, not even needing the full four minutes to surpass Machado's total and advance to the second round. Pederson crushed 13 homers in under three minutes.
Pederson took his timeout after hitting 11 homers, then wasted no time adding two more to eliminate Machado. The round immediately comes to a close when the second hitter surpasses the first hitter's total, so it's anyone's guess just how many homers Pederson would have hit over the full four minutes and 30 seconds in the first round.
Pujols: He added plenty of drama to the final matchup of the first round, taking it right down to the final second. The veteran Angels slugger got off to a slow start before eventually taking his timeout with two minutes and 23 seconds remaining and only three homers on the board.
Pujolspicked things up over the final couple minutes and eventually hit the go-ahead homer just as his initial four-minute clock ticked to zero. He earned the 30-second bonus time, but he didn't need to use it after eliminating Bryant at the buzzer.
Donaldson: The Toronto slugger equaled his first-round total to set the target for Frazier. Donaldson crushed five homers, including a 450-footer, before taking his timeout with a little more than two minutes remaining. He hit three more after that, but then he earned a 30-second bonus period, which he began with his final homer, a 442-foot shot off the left-field foul pole.
Frazier: Frazier had the hometown crowd a bit worried between his slow start and a late-round lull in the second round. He hit three straight grounders to begin the round, but he slowly came around, hitting six homers before taking his timeout with one minute and 49 seconds remaining in the round.
Frazier pulled within one of Donaldson's total before going nine straight pitches without a homer during the final minute. He snapped that skid with just under 10 seconds remaining to pull into a tie, then sealed his spot in the finals with a 444-foot homer -- his longest of the round -- just as his initial time limit expired.
Pederson: After a slow start, Pederson nearly matched his first-round total of 13. He hit only three homers before taking his timeout with two minutes and 20 seconds to go, but he got hot late, clubbing six more in regulation, including four that exceeded 440 feet.
Pederson then took full advantage of his 30-second bonus period, connecting on each of his first three swings. The rookie showed his ability to spray the ball around, homering to left-center, right-center and then dead center, the last a 434-foot drive off the windows.
Pujols: He hit a mid-round wall after a quick start, but he still managed to take his second-round matchup down to the wire. Pujols not only homered on each of his first three swings, but he sent each one at least 440 feet.
Pujols would hit just one more homer before taking his timeout with two minutes and 13 seconds remaining after eight consecutive homerless swings. Fatigue may have become a factor as he hit a handful of grounders over the final couple of minutes, though he hit a pair of homers just before the buzzer to pull within two entering his bonus time. Pujols hit his longest homer of the round, a 452-foot drive, during those extra 30 seconds, but he couldn't come up with the tying homer.
Pederson: He didn't get much rest after his second-round performance, but that was no problem for the rookie. Pederson started cold, with no homers on his first seven swings, before everything clicked into place, as he went deep on each of his next six cuts.
Following a timeout with two minutes and 15 seconds to go, Pederson put together another four-swing streak that included a 461-foot moonshot. He closed out his night with one final homer during his bonus period to put the pressure on Frazier.
Frazier: The fan favorite needed to post the best individual round by any player in order to take home the trophy -- and he was up for the challenge. Despite a stretch of 10 consecutive homerless swings in the middle of the round, during which he burned his timeout, Frazier rallied to pull off the victory in front of the hometown faithful.
Frazier had just five home runs when he took his timeout after his 17th swing, but he crushed nine homers over his final 22 swings to move into a tie with Pederson entering his bonus time. Frazier needed nowhere near the full 30 extra seconds, however, teeing off for the Derby-winning homer on the first pitch during his bonus time.