Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco had a tough time squaring up Braves starter R.A. Dickey on Thursday evening. In the top of the fifth inning, with a 2-1 count, Franco flailed at a knuckleball and lost control of the bat, sending it towards the crowd near the visiting dugout. Thankfully, there was protective netting and the bat didn’t strike any fans.
Only one problem: the bat got stuck in the protective netting. The game was delayed as a member of the Braves’ grounds crew tried to get the bat down. Ultimately, he succeeded and play resumed.
Franco finished the at-bat by lining out to Ender Inciarte in center field. He’d get revenge in the seventh, knocking in the Phillies’ first run with a single to right field off of Dickey.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.