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Stanton hits magic 61 for Home Run Derby win

When it comes to home runs, 61 is a magic number.

Usually Roger Maris comes to mind, with 61 homers in 161 games in 1961. But Monday night at Petco Park, it was Giancarlo Stanton making the magic.

None of the eight participants failed to put on a good show, but there could be only one winner. No. 5 seed Giancarlo Stanton (20 hr this season) of the Miami Marlins took home that honor and the title as Home Run Derby champion after a dazzling slugging performance, out slugging defending champion Todd Frazier in the final round.

MLB All-Star Weekend Complete All-Star coverage from SFBay sportswriters Kalama Hines and David Curl from Petco Park in San Diego.

Stanton took part in the 2015 Derby and hit only six homers. He played a slightly different tune Monday, slugging a shocking 61 home runs.

Stanton announced to the crowd while holding up the trophy:

“You see this bad boy right here? This is what I came for and I’m taking it with me.”

No. 2 seed Frazier (25) of the White Sox came in as the defending champion. Though he didn’t repeat, he made some history of his own. After smashing 50 home runs in 2015, he needed 32 home runs in this contest to become the all-time individual Home Run Derby leader — no easy feat. He managed 42 to extend his record to 92 homers.

Stanton said of Frazier:

“With him, I had to wait until the clock hit zero [to know if he was beaten] because he had that comeback last year and he knows the format more than any of us.”

But Stanton looked as though he invented the home run. He hit the most home runs in every round and finished with the largest output in single Derby history.

Stanton had concerns about keeping the same swing throughout such a long competition:

“I knew I could do it endurance-wise. It was just if my bat and my swing was gonna fall apart a little bit. I knew if I could do it if I was in there and luckily my bat power stayed good.”

The 2016 Derby carried on with new rules put into place in 2015. Rather than one pool of hitters vying for the top home run count, players now battle head-to-head in a bracket before the survivors are seeded one through eight based on their regular season home run count.

Additionally, instead of ten outs, hitters each took four-minute turns at the plate, with one time out to stop the clock. The pitcher can’t throw the next pitch until the ball hits the ground or stands, which means long home runs come at a price in time. A 30-second bonus was awarded when any player hit two or more balls over 440 feet in distance. Many did.

The first round started off smoking with Dodgers rookie and  No. 8 seed Corey Seager (17) setting the bar high with 15 homers. But American League home run leader and No. 1 seed Mark Trumbo (28) smashed his way to 16 — without even needing his 30 second bonus.

Eventual winner Stanton obliterated Robinson Cano with 24 shots, four shy of the all time single-round mark set by Bobby Abreu in 2005.

Stanton attributed his success in part to the rule change:

“I’m more rapid fire in the way I work and with regular [batting practice]. I like this format. The outs come down on you while the four minutes, you build up to that.”

Hometown favorite Wil Myers (19) put up a respectable total of 10 to which the crowd sounded their approval. But it wasn’t enough as Adam Duvall (23), who rose from platoon player to All-Star this season, managed to knock him out.

Carlos Gonzalez (19) of the Rockies started off slow, spraying too many line drives. When he managed to reach 12 homers and get the 30 second bonus, his chances looked promising, but after failing to add, eventual runner up Todd Frazier put Gonzalez’s contest to an early end.

The second round semifinal carried pace with the juggernauts Trumbo and Stanton meeting and Frazier and Duvall doing battle on the other side of the bracket.

Stanton continued to set the contest ablaze by knocking 17 homers, 14 of which eclipsed the 440 feet mark. Trumbo managed to salvage his pride with a valiant effort, tallying 14 big flies of his own.

Stanton put in his final performance with a 19 in regulation and added 1 more in bonus time for an even 20. Stanton added 11 more 440+ foot home runs. At this point Frazier needed only 3 dingers to set the individual record, and he did so and more by getting 13 big flies.

Stanton deferred the credit to his pitcher, Patrick Shine:

“[Shine was] a no-brainer. He was grooving them all day. I don’t think I took more than five balls. He’s just as important to this as I was.”

Shine returned the favor in complimenting Stanton.

He said:

“I’m just really happy for him. He’s one of the most intense competitors that anyone’s ever been around, so I just knew he really wanted to win it.”

When it was all said and done, this year’s derby was just too much Giancarlo Stanton. He walloped the top eight longest home runs on the evening, and nearly touched 500 feet twice.

Asked if he would come back again and try to win it again, Stanton replied:

“Depends on a lot of things, but next year it’s at home. So there’s a pretty good chance.”

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