After what seemed like an endless parade of pre-event hype coverage and MLB posturing, the first round of the 2011 Homerun Derby finally began from Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. Boston's Adrian Gonzalez kicked things off strong, belting nine first round bombs to set the starting mark.
Next up was St. Louis' Matt Holliday, the first National League representative. Sporting a history of Homerun Derby failure, the Cardinal outfielder would again fall victim to his dinger demons. As our own Jeff Sullivan so astutely put it:
His first round ends with five homers. In his previous first round, in 2010, he hit five homers. In his previous first round before that, in 2007, he hit five homers. I think we have collected enough evidence by now to know that Matt Holliday should never be invited back to this thing ever again.
Yankee second basemen Robinson Cano's turn at the plate was next, with his former-major league father, Jose Cano, serving as his derby pitcher. Cano would blast eight homeruns, immediately exceeding the low expectations poured on by skeptics leading up to the event.
After which, Milwaukee second basemen Rickie Weeks took the field to a entertainingly rich chorus of boos from the pro-Justin Upton Arizona crowd. In the end, the negativity may have gotten to the Brewer, as he walked away the sad owner of only three homers, disgracing the good name to second basemen that Cano had just established moments before.
The MLB's current homerun king, Jose Bautista, was the next to take his place at the batter's box. Unfortunately for those eagerly sitting on the edge of their seat, two years of pent-up resentment aimed towards the derby selection process resulted in just four dingers for the All-Star Blue Jay.
Next up for the National League was Dodgers stud Matt Kemp. Though, his round would end quickly, as the outfielder amassed nine outs before knocking in his first homerun. He finished with the derby-low total: two.
Defending champion -- and American League captain -- David Ortiz was up next, taking the field to a smattering of anticipation.While the Red Sox slugger failed to catch fire, he did belt five dingers, a mark good enough to move him into contention for the second round.
Finally, the last remaining contestant, National League captain Prince Fielder, entered the batter's box to another incredible chorus of boos. The Arizona fans clearly weren't happy with the Brewers, and they were making sure their voices were heard. However, unlike his Milwaukee teammate, Fielder refused to succumb to the whims of the crowd, crushing five homeruns to force a swing off between David Ortiz, Matt Holliday, and himself to determine the two that would be joining Cano and Gonzalez in the second round.
The results of the swing-off, courtesy of live-blogger Jeff Sullivan:
Two home runs for Matt Holliday, further proving that he absolutely sucks at this
Four home runs for David Ortiz, who moves on
Five home runs for Fielder. Five home runs on five swings, with a few of them being impossibly massive. Fielder's swing-off round is probably the most impressive and entertaining round we'll see all night so we might as well call it quits now.
David Ortiz kicked off the second round slowly, belting just four homeruns during an extended performance that included a music shift from Katy Perry to Nicki Minaj at the slugger's request. Robinson Cano was up next, and after a round packed with towering shots across the yard, he walked away the leader with 12 homeruns to his name.
Adrian Gonzalez followed with another dramatic performance, smashing 11 dingers throughout Chase Field, tying him with Cano for the lead with a total of twenty. Facing a tall order 15 homeruns to advance, Prince Fielder failed to come out strong, only hitting four homeruns to eliminate himself from competition.
With the conclusion of the second round, Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano headed to the final. Or as Jeff Sullivan so accurately pointed out:
One way or another, ESPN always ends up showing the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.
Adrian Gonzalez opened the final round with a bang, crushing eight homers with his first five outs. Though, his pace inevitably slowed, and his round ended with with a total of 11 dingers, still tied for the most in a final round in All-Star history.
So you would think a record tying round would win the competition, right? Well not this time. Needing a historic round to claim the 2011 Homerun Derby title, Robinson Cano put on a show for the ages. With his father by his side, Cano belted out 12 homers, nailing the capper to deep right-center field for a walk-off win. A joyous celebration ensued, and the Yankee second basemen emotionally embraced his father at midfield before receiving the championship trophy.
So there you have it, Robinson Cano is the 2011 Homerun Derby Champion. If you picked it right, you're probably a rich man right now (and a New Yorker), given that the Yankee was a 17/2 underdog. Congrats to you and your incredible powers of foresight.