CLEVELAND – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. electrified the crowd at Progressive Field with a record-setting performance that carried him to the Home Run Derby final Monday.
After setting a derby record with 29 first-round homers, he defeated Joc Pederson in round two after an epic back-and-forth that required three rounds of tie-breakers. The Blue Jays rookie will now face a fellow first-year player in the final, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso.
Guerrero Jr., the youngest ever to compete in the derby at 20 years and 114 days, advanced past Matt Chapman of the Athletics in round one, breaking Josh Hamilton’s previous single-round record of 28, set in 2008 at Yankee Stadium.
In the second round both Pederson and Guerrero Jr. hit 29 homers, leading to a one-minute tiebreaker. When both hit eight homers in the tiebreaker round, each had three swings to homer. Both players homered once on their first three swings, but Guerrero Jr. homered on two of his next three while Pederson hit just one.
Before taking the field, Guerrero Jr. said he intended to keep things simple.
“For this there’s no advice,” he said. “Just hit the balls out.”
From the mound, Blue Jays major-league coach John Schneider kept his approach similarly simple.
“Belt high, middle-in. See you later, ball,” Schneider said.
Guerrero’s father won the 2007 derby, defeating Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios. The winner of the 2019 derby gets $1 million while the runner-up gets $500,000.