HR Derby: Juan Soto defeats Julio Rodriguez in final

Washington’s Juan Soto defeated Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez 19-18 in the final to claim the Home Run Derby title at Dodger Stadium.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Washington Nationals star Juan Soto won his first home run derby Monday night, beating Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez 19-18 in the final.

Soto, 23, hit a total of 53 homers, beating each of his three opponents by a homer on the Midseason Power Show. Soto was locked in at the plate even after spending an hour earlier at Dodger Stadium to answer repeated questions about his potential departure from the Nats after turning down a major contract extension.

“It feels incredible. It feels tiring,” Soto said. “I was just trying to focus to save the balls because I know I have the power.”

Soto defeated Cleveland’s José Ramírez 18-17 in the first round before overtaking 42-year-old Albert Pujols 16-15 to reach the final.

Soto then started slowly while batting second in the final round behind the Mariners’ 21-year-old phenom, failing to hit his first homer until his 10th swing. He eventually caught fire and won a lively derby that began with a pyrotechnic display on the field that startled the competitors.

Soto’s longest homer of the night covered 471 feet, and he hit the winning 415-foot homer with 20 seconds of bonus time, then whipped his racquet in the air before being swarmed by other Dominican All-Stars.

Soto deserves a $1 million award and another highlight on his resume as his time at Washington may be nearing its end. The Athletic reported over the weekend that Soto turned down a 15-year, $440 million deal to stay with the Nationals and he could be traded through the end of the month.

“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” Soto said while hoisting the trophy over his head. “I am a champion and I will be a champion for Nationals.”

Rodríguez signaled his arrival on baseball’s biggest stage with a dynamic three-round performance at Chavez Ravine, where he has still not played for the Mariners. Only four players had managed to hit 30 homers in a single derby round before Rodríguez did it in each of his first two rounds, and he finished the night with 81 of them.

His 32 things against Texas’ Corey Seager in the first round was the second-most all-time this round, and the rookie added 31 in the semifinals to edge out two-time defending champion Pete Alonso, who had 23.

Pujols defeated Kyle Schwarber in a heartwarming first-round upset before Soto ended his night with a win that probably didn’t matter much to Pujols, an idol of other Dominican stars like Soto and Rodríguez. HR Derby: Juan Soto defeats Julio Rodriguez in final

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