NEW YORK CITY (AFP) – Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes captured the 2013 All-Star Game home run derby, outslugging Washington’s Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final round of the batting competition.
The 27-year-old Cespedes, who plays outfield for the Oakland Athletics, won the crown with a towering 455-foot shot beyond the wall in center field at CitiField park.
“During the first round I felt I was getting into a very good rhythm,” Cespedes said. “This trophy will motivate me.”
Cespedes is the second A’s player to win the competition — the other being disgraced former major leaguer Mark McGwire in 1992. Three years ago, McGwire admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout a Major League Baseball career in which he hit a total of 583 homers. McGwire is now a hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Cespedes’ win also extended the American League’s run of winners for seven consecutive years.
In the final round, Cespedes tied Harper’s total with a shot off the window of the stadium restaurant in left field. That set the stage for his winning hit.
Cespedes hit 32 home runs on Monday, compared to 24 by Harper.
Cespedes defected from Cuba in the summer of 2011 to the Dominican Republic, and then became a free agent before signing with Oakland before the 2012 season.
In his rookie year, the Cuban hit .292 with 23 homers and 82 RBI in 129 games. He has 15 home runs and 42 RBI in 74 games this season.
Harper’s 16 homers in the first two rounds of the derby were one more than Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer.
The 20-year-old Harper missed over a month of the season with bursitis in his left knee before returning July 1.
With his father, Ron, pitching to him Monday, Harper hit some superb dingers to different areas of the park.
Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who tied an American League record with 37 homers prior to the all-star break, was eliminated in round two. He hit just 12 homers.
The 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game is Tuesday night.