Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani has been the biggest story of the 2021 Major League Baseball season. The 27-year-old is a unique figure in the game, excelling as both a pitcher and hitter, and Ohtani entered the All-Star break as MLB’s leader in myriad offensive categories. Included in that is a league-best 33 home runs in only 84 games and, as the Home Run Derby arrived on Monday evening, many were intrigued with the show Ohtani might be able to put on as the betting favorite to claim the title. Ultimately, though, Ohtani wasn’t able to win the event, but he did provide all kinds of fireworks alongside Washington Nationals star Juan Soto in the opening round.
Fittingly, the Ohtani-Soto battle was the final matchup of the first round, and Soto posted 22 home runs in his opening run. Ohtani struggled a bit early but, on cue, he fired things up and was able to tie Soto in the final seconds.
That forced a swing-off, with each player having a minute to add to the previous scores. Soto knocked six baseballs over the wall, reaching 28 in total, and Ohtani answered by matching him swing for swing.
Ohtani ties Soto and we have ANOTHER swing off pic.twitter.com/Q9m00RPXKI
— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2021
To break the second tie, both players were given exactly three untimed swings and Soto did the unthinkable in blasting all three for home runs.
That put the pressure firmly on Ohtani and, when he missed a home run on his first swing, the favorite went down.
Juan Soto (+270) takes down the favorite
The No. 8 seed is moving on!pic.twitter.com/auupSIcI7Y
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) July 13, 2021
While it would’ve been a fun story to see Ohtani win the whole thing, this was a wild back-and-forth and Soto is a beloved figure in his own right. The 22-year-old superstar moved on to the semifinals with the win, but the Derby is heavily about vibes, and this matchup had all the drama one would want. Ohtani didn’t win, but he gave the people what they came for which was to see mammoth blasts, as he put a ridiculous six home runs over the 500 foot mark, while Soto wasn’t hitting cheap ones himself, with the longest blast of the night at 520 feet.