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A’s slugger Cespedes retains crown in Home Run Derby

AP

Yoenis Cespedes knew how to pace himself in this rain-delayed Home Run Derby, drawn out further by a new format.

The Oakland Athletics outfielder simply trusted his own strength.

Cespedes became the first repeat winner of the All-Star skills contest in 15 years, powering his way past Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier 9-1 in the final round Monday night.

Ken Griffey Jr. took the title in 1998 and 1999.

With a serious, determined look on his face the whole time, Cespedes finished with 28 homers. That was four fewer than last year, when he beat Washington’s Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final round.

The 28-year-old Cuban even told Athletics teammate Josh Donaldson he was doing this wrong.

“I knew he wasn’t going to win because his mentality was to take the ball out of the stadium, and I told him that is not the way you win this competition,” Cespedes said through an interpreter.

He added: “I’m somebody who’s very conscious of the power that I have. So I don’t need to put more of a swing or more of an effort in order to hit a home run. I just have to look for a good pitch and put a good swing on it, and it usually takes care of it.”

Cespedes saved his best for last, a 138-meter blast to the third deck above left field that officially measured as the longest of the night. A’s third base coach Mike Gallego again pitched to Cespedes, who went deep 32 times in last year’s derby at Citi Field in New York. Gallego’s arm looked nearly out of gas by the final round, which started after 10:30 p.m. local time.

“Maybe next year I’ll put up a better showing at the end,” Frazier said. “Now that I understand, maybe I’ll do a couple of more push-ups.”

Cespedes topped Toronto’s Jose Bautista, and Frazier surprisingly beat Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton in the semifinals.

Bautista and Stanton each earned a bye to the semifinals under the new bracketed format, which gave each player seven outs and pitted the survivors from each side in the final round. Bautista went deep 10 times in the first round, keeping the fans in the second deck above left field on their toes, and Stanton hit six.

That was all for him, though. After a long wait for his next turn, Stanton put up a zero in the semifinals and let Frazier advance with only one.

Oh, but Stanton’s six were beauties.

One landed in the third deck above left field, about a half-dozen rows shy of the very top of the ballpark. Another reached the second deck above the center field batter’s eye, a place never touched by a ball during an actual game here.

Bautista, the AL captain, has 11 home runs in 14 regular-season games here, the most by any visiting player.

Cespedes, who beat Donaldson in a tiebreaker after each finished with three in the first round, breezed by Baltimore’s Adam Jones in the second round. Frazier topped NL captain Troy Tulowitzki on the other side.

All-Star starters named

AP

Seattle’s Felix Hernandez will start Tuesday night’s All-Star Game for the American League and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals will open for the National League.

Hernandez, the first Venezuela pitcher to start for the All-Stars, is 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA. He is the second Seattle pitcher to start an All-Star Game following Randy Johnson in 1995 and 1997.

“Just throw zeros out there and get my team to win, that’s all I got to do,” Hernandez said.

NL manager Mike Matheny of the Cardinals chose the ace of his own staff. Wainwright is 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA and three complete games in 19 starts. It will be the 11th All-Star start by a Cardinals pitcher.