After smashing 17 home runs in the opening round of Monday's Home Run Derby, Yoenis Cespedes powers past Bryce Harper in the championship round for the crown.
NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes, the last player selected for the Home Run Derby, put on one of the most impressive power-hitting displays in the 29-year history of the event.
Cespedes, an outfielder for the Oakland Athletics, capped a memorable Monday evening at Citi Field by beating Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper 9-8 in the championship round in front of a sellout crowd of 43,558.
Cespedes launched 17 homers, most of them of the no-doubt variety, in a dazzling first round before hitting just six in the second round after a 92-minute break. But he surged past Harper in the championship round with five outs to spare.
"During the first round, while I took my first five swings, I felt that I was really into a rhythm and felt that I could put on a show like I did tonight," Cespedes said through ESPN's Pedro Gomez, who interpreted for him at the post-event press conference.
Cespedes wasn't added to the roster until last Tuesday, when American League captain Robinson Cano asked him to join. Cano said Monday he wanted to invite a player who hadn't been selected for the All-Star Game so he could enjoy the opportunity to participate in All-Star festivities.
Instead, Cespedes -- who was just the fourth Home Run Derby contestant to not play in the All-Star Game -- stole the show.
The 17 first-round homers -- including five into the third deck in left field and another off the façade -- were more than any other competitor hit in the first two rounds Monday and also were the most in the first round since Josh Hamilton's record-setting 28-homer barrage at Yankee Stadium in 2008.
With a berth in the championship round locked up -- and temperatures still in the 90-degree range on a steamy night in Queens -- Cespedes admitted he conserved some energy in the second round.
Before facing off against Harper, Cespedes told his pitcher, Athletics third base and infield coach Mike Gallego, to give him the same type of pitches he did in the first round.
"I told him, 'If you can maintain the same consistency and keep it low to me in the third round, I'll be able to get into a rhythm,'" Cespedes said.
Cespedes wasted little time getting into a groove. After hitting a line-drive homer to left field on his first swing, he didn't homer on three of his next four swings but then hit three deep homers on his next three swings.
After barely missing a homer on his ninth swing -- the ball bounced off the center-field wall -- he homered on four of his final five swings, with each blast more impressive than the last.
On his final swing, Cespedes hit the ball off the black just below advertising signage in center field. Immediately after making contact, he flipped the bat in celebration and watched the ball leave the park before embracing American League teammates.
"Cano told me once I hit nine, you can stop," Cespedes said with a grin.
Cespedes finished with 32 homers, tied for third-most all-time in a Derby with Cano (2011) and David Ortiz (2010).
"He was locked in after the first round," said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, the major-league home-run leader who was eliminated in Round 2. "I was interested to see if he was going to have anything left in the tank and he had plenty. I'm really happy for him and was glad that I got to stay out there and watch it."
Cespedes is the first member of the Athletics to win the Home Run Derby since Mark McGwire did it in 1992 -- three months before Harper was born.
Harper advanced to the championship round with 16 homers -- eight apiece in the first two rounds -- and gave Cespedes a high hurdle to clear by once again homering eight times off his dad and pitcher, Ron Harper.
Harper opened the championship round with a flourish by homering on his first three swings. The first two homers landed in almost the same spot in the upper-right-field deck while the third one bounced off advertising signage in right-center field.
After three straight outs, Harper alternated homers with outs on his next six swings. His seventh homer, which almost cleared the seats in right-center field, was his most impressive blast of the championship round.
"I just hope he hits my bat," Bryce Harper told reporters earlier in the day. "I'm just trying to go out there, have some fun and hopefully do what no one else has done."
Alas, Harper will have to wait at least a year to become the youngest Home Run Derby champion as well as the first member of the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise to win the Derby. The youngest Derby champion is Juan Gonzalez, who won it at 23 in 1993.
Davis and Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer also advanced to the second round by homering eight and seven times, respectively, in the first round. But Davis homered just four times in the second round while Cuddyer homered eight times.
Overall, the American League out-homered the National League, 53-50.
"That was a pretty good show this year," Cano said.
Cano and his fellow captain, Mets third baseman David Wright, were among the four players eliminated in the first round. Cano finished last with four homers -- the second straight year he has finished last -- and Wright was tied with Prince Fielder for next to last with five homers.
Another contestant with New York ties, Pirates third baseman and Manhattan native Pedro Alvarez, was also eliminated after Round 1 with six homers.
NOTES: Tony LaRussa, who managed his final big-league game as the National League skipper in last year's All-Star Game, took in batting practice from behind the cage. "I always loved the All-Star Game, get the best players in the world," LaRussa said. "That's why I come out to watch batting practice." LaRussa announced his retirement shortly after the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. ... The out-of-town scoreboard at Citi Field reflected the All-Star Game scores dating back to 1996 -- with the exception of the 2002 game that ended in a tie. ... Harper became the first Nationals player to participate in the Home Run Derby since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005. Four Expos participated in the Derby: Hubie Brooks (1986), Larry Walker (1992), Henry Rodriguez (1996) and Vladimir Guerrero (2000). ... At 20 years and 269 days old, Harper was the second-youngest player to ever take part in the Derby. Ken Griffey Jr. was 39 days younger when he made his Derby debut in 1990.