Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez dazzles in HR Derby, but Juan Soto claims title

It has been a magical last few weeks for Seattle Mariners fans, as their club is riding a 14-game winning streak into baseball’s All-Star break.  It is the second-longest win streak in club history, only to their epic 2001 season that saw them win 116 games, including a run of 15 in a row.

That team magic continued on Monday night through the bat of dynamic rookie outfielder Julio Rodriguez, who made his Home Run Derby debut.  Rodriguez took down Rangers star Corey Seager in the opening round, 32 home runs to 24, and followed that with a second-round upset of two-time reigning Derby champion Pete Alonso of the New York Mets, 31 dingers to 22, to reach the Derby Finals.

Nationals slugger Juan Soto, who is immersed in contract talks with Washington that could ultimately see Soto land elsewhere via trade, edged the Guardians’ Jose Ramirez and Cardinals legend Albert Pujols to reach the Finals.

Rodriguez looked to be more in form than Soto entering the Finals, but may have shown some tried swings in the Finals with 18 home runs.  That gave room for Soto, and the 23-year-old made the most of it, despite getting out to a slow start.  Soto hit 10 home runs before taking a time out with 32 seconds left, then hit five more before the regulation buzzer to get to 15, then used his 60-second bonus time to eventually pass Rodriguez with his 19th homer of the Finals, claiming the Derby crown.