MLB Home Run Derby odds boil down to Stanton, Judge

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The combination of a home ballpark and being the only returning power hitter in the field has put Giancarlo Stanton atop the MLB Home Run Derby futures board – albeit barely.

Defending champion Stanton, of the hometown Miami Marlins, is listed as a +165 betting favorite to capture MLB’s annual contest of clout at Marlins Park on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge, who has an MLB-best 30 home runs and is threatening to take down Mark McGwire’s rookie record, is listed right behind at +175. By virtue of having had more home runs on June 15, Stanton is the No. 1 seed, whereas Judge is No. 2.

Eight players will be participating in a bracket-style timed event, where each player has four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. Hitters get another 30 seconds if they hit two home runs measured at more than 440 feet.

Stanton, who bashed 61 big flies during the 2016 contest at San Diego’s Petco Park, will try to become just the third repeat champion and third player to win in his home park. Judge will try to be the first rookie to win since 1986.

Either player is a worthy play, but there’s far, far greater value in picking one of the darkhorses. For the quarter-finals, Staton faces that other Yankees rookie, Gary Sanchez (+1400 to win). Sanchez has the longest average home-run distance in the field (422 feet to Judge’s 415 and Stanton’s 410) and could be an early bracket-buster. Upsetting Stanton would throw the field wide-open.

The Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano (+1000) and Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas (+1400) meet in the other quarter-final in the “Stanton region” of the bracket. Sano (average home run distance of 414 feet) should also be considered a darkhorse.

Judge faces the other Marlins representative, Justin Bour (+1400), in his quarter-final. Bour has an average home-run distance of 398 feet – tied with Moustakas for lowest in the field – and might be a bit of a sacrificial lamb up against Judge.

Meantime, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (+900 on the 2017 Home Run Derby odds) and the Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon (+2000) meet in an all-NL West quarter-final. Bellinger has enlisted his father Clay Bellinger as his pitcher and will be the fourth competitor to have his dad serving up meatballs. One of the other three (Robinson Cano in 2011) won and another (Bryce Harper in 2015) was runner-up.

Blackmon, meantime, faces a potential Bellinger-Judge tag team just to make the final, so his high price is probably a red herring.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are engaged

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LOS ANGELES — Jennifer Lopez said yes to Alex Rodriguez’s proposal, and with the rock he presented, who could say no?

The couple posted an Instagram photo of their hands with a massive engagement ring on Lopez’s ring finger. The former Yankees shortstop captioned his photo with “she said yes” and a heart emoji.

The couple has been dating since early 2017 and later that year landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine with their celebrity couple nickname, J-Rod.

In January, Rodriguez told The Associated Press that he and Lopez had similar backgrounds and her latest film “Second Act” reflected the ties that drew them together.

“It really resembles a lot of the arc that Jennifer and I lived in our life: Both born in New York, both come from immigrant parents, both have two children, both Latino Americano – her from Puerto Rico, me from Dominican Republic. We’ve been through our ups and downs, but here we are in our 40s and trying to live the best lives possible and, at the same time, give back and pay it forward,” Rodriguez said.

It will be Lopez’s fourth marriage and Rodriguez’s second. Each has two children from previous marriages.

Hawaii defeats South Korea 3-0 to win Little League title

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It only took one pitch for Mana Lau Kong to deliver Hawaii its first Little League World Series title in a decade.

Against a South Korea team that hadn’t surrendered a home run in the tournament, Kong drove the first pitch his team saw over the center field fence. As he rounded the bases and headed home, his teammates poured out of the dugout in a pack led by pitcher Ka’olu Holt and formed a huddle around home plate.

“It was great,” Holt said, “because we all knew that pitcher was tough to hit.”

Holt took it from there, throwing a two-hitter to lead Hawaii to a 3-0 victory in the Little League World Series championship, the first shutout in a title game since 2002. It was Holt’s first-ever complete game.

The team from Honolulu allowed just three runs in the entire tournament, shut out four of its five opponents and struck out 53 batters in 34 innings.

“Someone asked me, what’s the strength of the team, and I honestly have to say, it’s that they play as a team,” Hawaii manager Gerald Oda said. “Ka’olu pitching, or Aukai (Kea) pitching, Mana hitting a home run, it’s everybody just doing the best that they can do. Once they bought in and once they accepted their roles, it makes my job a lot easier.”

In the bottom of the second inning, Hawaii had the bases loaded with no outs, but failed to score. So Oda took a more aggressive approach on the basepaths with two runners in scoring position in the third.

Pinch-runner Zachary Won scored Hawaii’s second run on a wild pitch from starter Kim Yeong-hyeon. As catcher Kim Gi-jeong chased the ball, Oda sent Taylin Oana all the way home from second to give Hawaii its third run.

In the stands, Hawaii’s fans, waving tea leaves for luck, started to mix their signature “Hon-o-lu-lu!” chants with “U-S-A!”

The victory marks the first time a Hawaiian team has won the Little League World Series since 2008. It is now one of seven U.S. states with at least three LLWS titles. All of Hawaii’s championships have come in the past 13 years.

Seoul, South Korea, has played in the three of the last six LLWS title games, but won only once – in 2014. It lost in 2016 to Maine-Endwell, New York.

“It was equally the same thing, from 2016 to 2018,” South Korea manager Su Ji-hee, who was also a member of the coaching staff of the 2016 team, said through a translator. “After the game, the kids were crying, they feel sorry for themselves.”

At the conclusion of a six-pitch final inning, Hawaii’s players tossed their gloves and hats as high as they could, and sprinted to the mound to form another celebratory huddle.

“It felt really great because barely any Hawaii teams get to be in this moment and feel what it feels like meeting other people from around the world, to playing baseball against them too,” Kong said.

After finally achieving what his team set out to accomplish at the beginning of the summer, Oda can’t wait to return home to his family.

As for the kids? They want to see their families, too, but they have other plans.

“I want to go to the beach,” Holt said.