MIAMI — The signs at Marlins Park proclaimed, “All Rise for the Judge.”
Presiding on Monday night was the honorable Aaron Judge, a towering figure at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, and he made hard contact with his bat instead of a gavel, winning the Home Run Derby.
Judge won 11-10 in an anticlimactic final against Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. There was 1:53 left on the clock when the New York Yankees rookie passed Sano for the win.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Judge, a right fielder who leads the majors with 30 homers at the All-Star break. “It was an awesome atmosphere (at Marlins Park). I hope the fans enjoyed the show.”
And what a show it was, especially in the first round.
A heavyweight matchup between Judge, the second seed, and Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, the defending champion and top seed, never materialized. Stanton, the National League co-leader in home runs with 26, was upset in the first round by Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, seeded eighth.
But Stanton, who at 6-6 and 250 pounds is bigger than just about every slugger in the game except for Judge, did pound one pitch for a massive 496-foot homer.
Judge went even further with a 513-foot blast in a 13-12 semifinal win over third-seeded Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Judge wound up with three 500-plus-foot homers.
Perhaps the highlight of the night came at the end of the thrilling first round, climaxed by Judge and Marlins first baseman Justin Bour, a lefty hitter and No. 7 seed who pumped out 22 pitches to right and right-center field.
Stanton, his teammate, was on TV at the time, rooting him on while his words were recorded by ESPN.
“I told you all were sleeping on Bour,” Stanton crowed as Bour hit six consecutive homers at one point.
During his one allotted timeout, Bour waved his arms, imploring the fans to make some noise. Stanton ran over and — quite comically — gave a doughnut to Bour, who took a big bite and washed it down with bottled water.
Bour ate it up — the doughnut and the attention — but it wasn’t enough.
Beating 22 homers would be a Herculean task for most. But Judge, seemingly larger than life right now, caught Bour and beat him in bonus time, silencing the boos from Marlins fans.
“I saw what Bour did,” said Judge, who only had seven homers when he called timeout with 2:16 left, “and I just tried to repeat it.”
Stanton said he had never met Judge before Monday but was clearly impressed.
“My batting stance when I first came up and his batting stance — the resemblance is insane,” Stanton said of Judge. “It’s almost identical.”
In the other semifinal, Sano, the fifth seed, got past Sanchez 11-10.
Bellinger, who took his pitches from his father Clay Bellinger, a former major league hitter, was asked before his semifinal what he thought his chances were to defeat Judge.
“Negative 12,” Bellinger joked.
Stanton, meanwhile, lost 17-16 to Sanchez. Stanton, who set a Home Run Derby record last year by smashing 61 homers in San Diego, nearly caught Sanchez but fell short on his last two attempts. Stanton had just one homer in his first 11 swings.
“I started out with too many popups,” said Stanton, whose 61 homers last year were 14 more than Judge had on Monday.
Also failing to get past the first round were fourth-seeded Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and sixth-seeded Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon.
Moustakas lost 11-10 to Sano. Moustakas, a lefty hitter, seemed to be on the verge of winning his matchup but fell short on his final seven swings. With time running down, his last attempt one-hopped the fence in right.
Blackmon lost 15-14 to Bellinger, who rallied late. Bellinger tied the score 14-14 on his last swing of regulation and earned 30 seconds bonus time because it was his second bomb of more than 440 feet. He then beat Blackmon on his final swing of bonus time.
Before the Home Run Derby, Blackmon, who bats leadoff for the Rockies and is much smaller than Judge and Stanton at 6-3, 210 pounds, was asked if he felt he belonged in a slugging contest with the aforementioned giants.
“No,” Blackmon said as reporters chuckled.
As it turned out, on this night at least, no one could stack up to Judge, who smiled as he let loose with his final swing of the night — a 458-foot line drive to center field.
The signs at Marlins Park read from fans wearing courtroom robes and white wigs: “Case Dismissed.”
NOTES: The only hitters to win the Home Run Derby in their home park were Chicago Cubs 2B Ryne Sandberg at Wrigley Field in 1990 and Cincinnati Reds 3B Todd Frazier at the Great American Ballpark in 2015. … The only hitters to repeat as champs since the Derby started in 1985 were Seattle Mariners CF Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999 and Oakland A’s LF Yoenis Cespedes in 2013 and 2014. … Despite his early exit on Monday, Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton can take comfort in knowing that his 15 homers this season that have traveled at least 450 feet are the most in the majors.
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