CLEVELAND — The two finalists in Monday night’s All-Star Game Home Run Derby have a total of 38 big-league homers. Champion Pete “Polar Bear” Alonso of the New York Mets has 30 in just a half season of big-league experience. Runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays, has eight in 61 games.
Alonso is 24 years old and Guerrero Jr., only 20; both are likely to be in a few more of these contests.
Guerrero Jr. pounded a record 29 homers in the first round to defeat Oakland’s Matt Chapman. After Guerrero Jr. and Los Angeles’ Joc Pederson both hit 29 to tie in the semifinal, the two played through two subsequent playoff rounds before Guerrero Jr. finally beat Pederson by one at 40-39.
Alonso ousted Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. on his final swing 20-19 in the other semifinal before Alonso won 23-22 in the final, scoring his third one-point triumph in three rounds.
Counting his playoff with Pederson, Guerrero Jr. clouted a Derby record 91 homers. Alonso had 34 fewer at 57. But just enough.
ODORIZZI DOES CLEVELAND
A week in Cleveland might not be the ideal wish for a ballplayer, but Highland, Ill., product Jake Odorizzi is experiencing it this week and liking it.
Minnesota Twins righthander Odorizzi isn’t pitching in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game because he had some blister issues with the middle finger on his pitching hand. But he will be pitching here Saturday against the Indians as the Twins, one of baseball’s surprise teams, try to hold off the Indians in the American League Central Division. Before that, Odorizzi will take his family to the zoo on Wednesday’s off day.
“Just being named (to the All-Star team), is special,” said Odorizzi Monday at media day here. “The funny thing was that I was supposed to pitch (Sunday) and I wouldn’t have been able to throw in the All-Star Game anyway. So it isn’t like anything got taken away from me.
“But I threw a bullpen a couple of days ago and everything is going to be fine.”
Odorizzi is 10-4 with a 3.15 earned run average in his breakout season just as he hits free agency. He was 47-48 before this year but if the second half goes anything like the first for the slugging Twins, Odorizzi will be playing October baseball for the first time.
“It’s a really special team,” said Odorizzi of the Twins, who at 56-33, have the third-best record in the league behind the New York Yankees and Houston Astros.
Minnesota has hit 166 homers in 89 games and is on target for 302 homers. No team his hit more than the 266 clouted by the New York Yankees last year.
“When you have an offense like that, even in the games you’re trailing, you’re never out of them,” Odorizzi said.
Odorizzi was drafted in the first round by Milwaukee in 2008 but traded to Kansas City, then to Tampa Bay and then to Minnesota. He never has won more than 11 games.
This year, his ERA was 2.58 until three starts ago when, perhaps bothered by the blisters, he gave up 12 runs in 12 1/3 innings over three starts, losing two of the three.
No matter what happens the rest of the way, he expects to be a free agent after the season. The Cardinals, for instance, might be looking for a starter.
“A few months from now,” he said, “I guess I can talk to just anybody I want to, or whoever wants to talk to me, we should say. But, being in the American League my entire career, I don’t know too much about who’s with the Cardinals these days,” Odorizzi said.
“I got to know (catcher, then manager) Mike Matheny over the years. He was one of the guys I enjoyed watching when I was growing up. He was one of the fun ones, a guy that everybody kind of idolized.”
A NEW YANKEE CLIPPER
As if the Yankees don’t have enough offensive weapons, they may have a record-setter as their new leadoff man. DJ LeMahieu, signed as a free agent in the offseason, is leading the American League in batting average at .336. He won a National League batting title in 2016 with Colorado at .348.
No player has won the batting crown in both leagues.
LeMahieu said. “Obviously, it’s cool but I try not to focus on it.”
BETTS HITS 300 IN TWO SPORTS
Reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts of the world champion Boston Red Sox also is an accomplished bowler, authoring several 300 games, including one competitively at the World Series of Bowling.
“I forgot,” when asked how many perfect games he had.
“Three or four.”
In the offseason, Betts said he enjoyed bowling as much as he enjoys baseball during the season. “It’s something that I can switch my mind to so I can get away from baseball. It’s something I’ve doing with my family since I was 3.
“A lot of curveballs in bowling.”
Often All-Star players are asked who their favorite players were. Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said his was Barry Bonds. Milwaukee infielder Mike Moustakas was more current. “Right now, it’s Christian Yelich,” he said, referring to his Milwaukee teammate, who won the National League MVP award last year and has a league-leading 31 home runs this year. … Parkway Central and Mizzou product Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals ace, won’t participate in the All-Star Game, resting a back ailment.