HOME RUN DERBY

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - CRAIG DAVIS

All of the buzz is fo­cused on the Mon­sters of Mash. It is the dream Home Run Derby matchup, the two big­gest bop­pers in a game of one-up­man­ship to see who can hit the ball far­ther and with greater fre­quency.

Imag­ine what Mar­lins slug­ger Gian­carlo Stan­ton did last year in belt­ing 61 home runs over three rounds out of Petco Park in San Diego, in du­pli­cate. Be­cause Stan­ton now has the per­fect foil in New York Yan­kees rookie Aaron Judge, who in the first half of the sea­son hit the most home runs (30), the long­est (495 feet) and the hard­est (121.1 mph).

“That would be sweet if those two were in the fi­nal to put on a show,” said for­mer Mar­lin Der­rek Lee, a twotime All-Star.

“I don’t know if the game has ever seen two guys with as much power as those guys.”

Yet there is no guar­an­tee of Stan­ton and Judge meet­ing in the fi­nal round tonight at Mar­lins Park, though the odds point to it — Stan­ton is the 7-5 fa­vorite to win, just ahead of Judge at 7-4, ac­cord­ing to on­line sports­book Bo­vada.lv.

They each need to win two pre­lim­i­nary rounds to set up the win­ner-take-all show­down that most fans, and cer­tainly ESPN, which is tele­vis­ing the event, wants to see un­der the sin­gle-elim­i­na­tion for­mat in­sti­tuted two years ago.

The x-fac­tor, along with the six other com­peti­tors, will be the jumbo di­men­sions of the ball­park, which mea­sures 407 feet to cen­ter, 386 to left cen­ter and 392 to right cen­ter.

“I think be­cause it is a big­boy ball­park, that in the end the big­gest, strong­est guys are go­ing to out­last the oth­ers,” said Karl Ravech, who is re­plac­ing Chris Ber­man as the voice of the Derby on the ESPN broad­cast, which be­gins at 7 p.m. Cen­tral.

Ravech said that be­cause Judge (6 feet, 8 inches) and Stan­ton (6-6) are so big and strong, they can “pop a ball up and it’s a home run. The other guys, for the most part, have to hit it.”

The vast reaches to the right of the home run sculp­ture in cen­ter at Mar­lins Park, with a max dis­tance of 407 feet to the 13-foot wall, must be avoided.

That is cer­tainly eas­ier to do in the Derby, against meat­ball pitches in fa­vored hit­ting zones, than it is in games. Stan­ton has for­mer Mar­lins video co­or­di­na­tor Pat Shine back as his pitcher to try to reprise their suc­cess in San Diego.

The seats in right field are also eas­ier to reach at 335 feet down the line, com­pared to 344 in left. That of­fers an ad­van­tage to the four left-handed hit­ters in the Derby — Mar­lins first base­man Justin Bour, along with Cody Bellinger, Mike Mous­takas and Char­lie Black­mon.

For­mer Mar­lin Jeff Co­nine said he has watched Bour — es­pe­cially in bat­ting prac­tice — utlilize the shorter right­field porch.

“So he might be a dark­horse con­tender,” Co­nine said.

Mar­lins Park ranks as the eighth-tough­est of the 30 ma­jor-league parks to hit home runs in this sea­son. But it has been yield­ing home runs at a higher rate than in any pre­vi­ous sea­son.

The roof will be closed, as it al­most al­ways is, but with the ex­te­rior wall open, there could be balls bounc­ing out of the park. The up­per deck in right should see plenty of vis­its from the left­ies.

Petco Park had the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a tough place to hit home runs last year, but it was no match for Stan­ton, who hit 39 home runs longer than 440 feet, in­clud­ing two 497-foot­ers, in last year’s Derby.

The com­pe­ti­tion will open with two Mar­lins vs. Yan­kees en­coun­ters (Stan­ton-Gary Sanchez, Bour-Judge) in the first round.

Ravech, who has filled nu­mer­ous roles at ESPN, in­clud­ing host of “Baseball Tonight,” will work with an­a­lysts Jessica Men­doza and Mark Teix­eira, as well as Buster Ol­ney.

Their plan, af­ter 23 years of Ber­man’s “back-back-back-gone” is to let the hit­ters make most of the noise.

“I think our goal is try­ing to hu­man­ize these guys,” Ravech said. “Tell sto­ries about who they are, how they got to where they are, what they were when they were younger.

“But the de­scrip­tion of the home run, I haven’t thought for a sec­ond about how I’m go­ing to call home runs, prob­a­bly be­cause I don’t think that’s overly im­por­tant.”

AP/BEN MAR­GOT

Miami out­fielder Gian­carlo Stan­ton (right) is met by Chris­tian Yelich af­ter hit­ting the first of his two home runs in a 10-8 vic­tory over San Francisco in 11 in­nings. Stan­ton is ex­pected to show plenty of power in tonight’s MLB Home Run Derby in Mar­lins Park in Miami.

Judge

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