He wasn’t officially named baseball’s best slugger, but Bryce Harper made the Washington Nationals proud in his first Home Run Derby appearance, finishing second to Yoenis Cespedes.
Harper hit eight home runs in all three rounds, finishing just one shy of Cespedes' nine in the final round. Cespedes clinched his victory with five outs to spare as his ninth home run sailed over the center-field wall.
The second father-son team of the night — Bryce and father Ron Harper — surprised their audience as Ron threw his son cutters instead of the classic fastballs associated with home run hitting.
Even though it appeared Ron was doing his best impression of a major league hurler trying to pitch around Bryce (he even hit him once, leading to laughs all around), Bryce said those were the pitches he grew up seeing from his father, so he decided to rely on comfort rather than convention as his ticket to success.
With his National League partners coming up short in the early rounds, Harper was able to represent his league in the finals.
NL-captain David Wright and Pedro Alvarez were the first to exit, hitting only five and six home runs, respectively, in the first round. Harper and Michael Cuddyer represented the NL in the second round, but Cuddyer’s seven home runs fell short of Harper’s eight, which qualified him for the final.
For the American League, Prince Fielder failed to become the second player to win the Derby three times, hitting only five home runs in the first round. AL-captain Robinson Cano was also unable to make it past the first round with four homers.
Cespedes awed the crowd with his first-round performance, when he hit 17 home runs, which was more than the second place first-round finishers hit combined (Chris Davis 8, Harper 8).
However, Harper, the second-youngest player to ever participate in the Derby (behind Ken Griffey, Jr.), was not without his own awe-inspiring moments. Though he didn't hit the majestic moon shots Fielder did, Harper was credited by multiple sources with hitting the most missile-like homers, as his shots left the park in a hurry.
At only 20 years old, Harper has many years of potential Derbies ahead of him. Finishing second in his first one is him just getting warmed up.