Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Balls will be flying out of Chase Field tonight during the Home Run Derby.
There's a bit of a new wrinkle to this year's event: One captain was chosen from each league (David Ortiz and Prince Fielder) and they were allowed to select three competitors apiece to join them in the Derby.
Ortiz chose three other players from the AL East: Red Sox teammate Adrian Gonzalez, the Yankees' Robinson Cano and the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista. Fielder took one of his teammates from the Brewers, Rickie Weeks, along with the Dodgers' Matt Kemp and the Cardinals' Matt Holliday.
I'll try to provide a few updates during the course of the Derby, but I'm also still working on my main All-Star piece about Tyler Clippard, Joel Hanrahan, Manny Acta and the circumstances that allowed them all to overcome adversity in 2009 with the Nationals to reach their first midsummer classic. Be sure to check the homepage later for that, and also be sure to tune into Comcast SportsNet at 6 p.m. Eastern to see my live report from outside Chase Field...
2011 HOME RUN DERBY
Where: Chase Field
Gametime: 8 p.m.
Radio: ESPN-980 AM, XM 176
Weather: Dome (Outside: Partly cloudy, 97 degrees)
PARTICIPANTS8:20 p.m. -- And the Derby is underway, with Adrian Gonzalez at the plate and ... Manny Acta(?!) pitching to him.
Prince Fielder (Mil)
Matt Kemp (LAD)
Rickie Weeks (Mil)
Matt Holliday (StL)
David Ortiz (Bos)
Jose Bautista (Tor)
Adrian Gonzalez (Bos)
Robinson Cano (NYY)
8:25 p.m. -- Wow, nice opening round from Gonzalez. Nine home runs, setting a high bar for the rest of the competitors. He even dropped one into the pool in right-center field.
8:35 p.m. -- Matt Holliday made the unconventional decision to have Cardinals teammate (and fellow All-Star) Yadier Molina throw for him. It might have been a costly decision, because Molina didn't seem totally comfortable throwing BP. Holliday wound up with five homers, though one of them was a bomb onto the overhang in deep left-center, about 30 feet above the 413-foot sign.
8:49 p.m. -- Man, did Robinson Cano just put on a show. It wasn't so much the number of homers (eight). It was the majesty of nearly all of them. Just some towering blasts, including a 472-foot moonshot that reached the Diamond Club three levels up in right-center.
9:09 p.m. -- Rickie Weeks stepped to the plate to a chorus of boos from the Chase Field crowd. Why? Because folks around here were upset Prince Fielder selected his Milwaukee teammate instead of the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton. Well, those boos only intensified as Weeks struggled big-time to hit the ball out of the park. He wound up with only three homers, worst among the competitors so far. By the end of the round, the crowd was chanting: "We want Upton!" Jose Bautista, meanwhile, put four balls over the stands during his first round. Not quite as dominant as his usual performances in the regular season.
9:18 p.m. -- Hmm, another weak showing from one of Fielder's picks. Matt Kemp nearly was shut out. Down to his last out, he stepped out of the box for a moment and took a deep breath. AL catcher Russell Martin (a former teammate in Los Angeles) walked out there with a Gatorade bottle for Kemp. And what did he do on his next swing? Homered at last. So Martin brought him another Gatorade bottle. And he homered again. Sadly, that was the end of the streak. Kemp finishes with only two homers.
9:27 p.m. -- Well, Big Papi just opened the door back up for the NL squad. A disappointing five-homer round for David Ortiz. If Prince Fielder can top that, he'll automatically qualify for the next round (along with Gonzalez and Cano) and leave Papi in a tiebreaker with Holliday.
9:38 p.m. -- And Fielder finishes with five homers himself. So now we've got three guys tied for the two remaining spots in the semifinals. Ortiz, Holliday and Fielder each get five swings in this tiebreaker.
9:43 p.m. -- The captains deliver big-time in the Swing-Off. Papi blasts four homers in five swings. Prince does him one better, connecting all five times. Holliday is eliminated after hitting only two out. So we'll have four left-handed semifinalists: Fielder, Ortiz, Gonzalez and Cano. Tough luck for anyone who bought seats in the left-field bleachers.
9:59 p.m. -- Ortiz is up first in the semifinal round, and he adds four more homers to his first-round total of five. Since everything is cumulative now, that means he's got nine through two rounds. Gonzalez already had nine in the first round. Cano had eight. It will take a miracle for Papi to advance to the finals.
10:11 p.m. -- Fantastic performance from Cano in round two. Twelve more homers, which combined with his eight previous homers, gives him an even 20 for the entire competition.
10:27 p.m. -- And Gonzalez matches Cano with 20 total homers. He hit seven in a row at one point during his 11-homer round, including two opposite-field shots. So unless Prince Fielder clubs at least 15 homers here, it's going to be Cano and Gonzalez in the finals. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Great, just what everyone wanted.
10:33 p.m. -- No dice for Prince. He adds four homers to his first-round total of five. That gives him nine in total, not nearly enough. So it's Cano and Gonzalez in the finals. Yankees-Red Sox. Given the way contests between those two teams usually go, this should only take about four more hours to complete.
10:48 p.m. -- OK, Gonzalez sets the bar with 11 homers. That ties the record for most homers in the championship round. So for Cano to win this thing, he'll have to establish a new record.
11:03 p.m. -- And Cano does it! Twelve home runs in the final round to beat Gonzalez. The Evil Empire triumphs again. Robinson Cano is your 2011 Home Run Derby champion.