Nationals’ Soto wins HR Derby

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

Soto, who was competing in the Derby for the second time, had nine homers in the final minute of regulation in the two-minute final. He added four more in bonus time, his clinching blast coming with 19 seconds remaining. He threw his bat way in the air after the deciding shot cleared the fence.

The 23-year-old Soto hit 53 total homers, beating each of his three opponents by one homer while hitting second each time in the midseason power showcase. Soto was locked in at the plate even after spending an hour earlier at Chavez Ravine answering repeated questions about his possible departure from the Nats after turning down a reported $440 million offer.

“It feels amazing. It feels tiring,” said Soto, a reserve on the NL All-Star team for Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic. “I just tried to concentrate to square off the balls, because I know I have the power.”

Soto hit a 482-foot blast to right-center while beating Cleveland’s José Ramírez 18-17 in the first round, and he got past 42-year-old Albert Pujols 16-15 to reach the final.

Rodríguez was even more impressive in the first two rounds while signaling his arrival on baseball’s biggest stages, particularly when he knocked off two-time defending champion Pete Alonso of the Mets 31-23 in the second round. Only four players had managed to hit 30 homers in a single Derby round before the Mariners’ 21-year-old phenom did it twice, and he finished the night with 81 of them.

Soto then started slowly while batting second in the final round, failing to hit his first homer until his 10th swing. He eventually caught fire to win a lively Derby that began with an on-field pyrotechnic flame display that spooked the competitors.

Soto hit the winning 415-foot homer with 20 seconds of bonus time to spare, then whipped his bat in the air before being swarmed by other Dominican All-Stars. His homers traveled a total of 5.41 miles.

Soto earns a $1 million prize and another highlight on his resume as his time with Washington possibly nears an end. The Athletic reported over the weekend that Soto turned down a $440 million, 15-year contract to stay with the Nationals, and he could be traded by the end of the month.

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

 

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Soto, the fourth seed, is the second Nationals player to win the Derby. Bryce Harper won it in 2018 in Washington.

WTOP’s Rob Woodfork contributed to this report.

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