Detroit Tigers slugger Prince Fielder outlasted Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays to win this year's Home Run Derby. It's a victory that should propel Fielder to a strong second half as the Tigers look to make up ground in the playoff race.
The 28-year-old first baseman actually got off to a slow start, crushing just five homers in the opening round to barely survive the cut. Fielder was unstoppable once he was given a reprieve, hitting 23 bombs over the next two rounds to win.
It's the second time he won the showcase event, and it couldn't have come at a better time. He's on pace for just 28 home runs this season, which would be tied for the lowest total in any of his full seasons in the big leagues.
Fielder's numbers are actually down across the board, as evidenced by his .885 OPS, which is nearly 100 points lower than it was last season. The pressure of the monster contract he received during the offseason surely must be weighing on his mind at least a little bit.
That's why the Home Run Derby was a perfect event for him. The laid-back atmosphere gave him a chance to show off his mammoth power all while having a good time and hanging out with his kids, who almost stole the show as much as he did.
It's the type of performance that will not only allow him to rediscover his power stroke but also help clear his mind so he can focus purely on baseball. The Tigers need him to step up in the second half of the season as they chase the AL Central crown.
They were expected to run away with the division given the offseason upgrade, but it just hasn't happened that way. Inconsistent starting pitching and a lack of offensive depth have led to some disappointing results, which means the Tigers are in for a fight.
Things will be a lot easier if Fielder goes on a power-hitting binge. He's certainly capable. His splits for before and after the All-Star break are pretty similar, but since he was slightly down in the first half, a rebound is likely.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see him rattle off between 18 and 20 home runs in the second half, providing the Tigers offense with the boost it needs to get back on track. The combination of him and Miguel Cabrera would be unstoppable if they got hot at the same time.
Most of the time, events like the Home Run Derby don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. But Fielder's victory and reaction make it seem like that won't be the case for him. It was exactly what he needed heading into the dog days of summer.
And that's music to the ears of Tigers fans.
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