Coming up against the hottest batter in MLB, Nationals star Juan Soto outlasted Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani in an epic first-round bout of the 2021 Home Run Derby on Monday night.
In his first home run derby appearance, Soto's 31 homers narrowly beat Ohtani's 28 in a first-round matchup that required two overtime periods to decide who would advance to face Pete Alonso in the semifinals. Though Soto had more swings and therefore was afforded the chance to go second, the reigning NL batting champ opted to go first, but Alonso's 16 home runs overcame Soto's 15. Alonso went on to win his second straight derby.
Back in the first round, both power hitters finished with 22 home runs after the first period of allotted time, and after tying again in the first swing-off, a final three-swing round saw Soto casually blast three balls into the stands. Ohtani's first swing sent the ball into the ground and Soto's victory was claimed.
"It was great. He gave everything he had, I gave everything I had and it just went my way," Soto said on the ESPN broadcast immediately following his big win. "It's a fun competition, like I said with everything today, thank God I got the win but we've got a long way to go now."
Ohtani's 33 home runs rank first in the majors this season, whereas Soto's 11 home runs rank fourth on the Nationals. It was supposed to be an easy victory for Ohtani against a surprise entrant, but Soto pulled off the upset in dramatic style. Also the betting underdog on Pointsbet Sportsbook, a $100 bet for Soto to beat Ohtani would have netted a $160 profit.
Soto hit the longest home run in derby history when his swing of the bat delivered the ball 520 yards. Ohtani, on the other hand, hit more 500-yard homers (six) in derby history despite being bounced in the first round.
Not a bad way to start off this year's derby!