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Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber falls to Bryce Harper in Home Run Derby final

WASHINGTON – Nationals Park was eerily quiet late Monday when Kyle Schwarber was pounding his patented Schwarbombs into the right-field stands.

The oohs and aahs that followed Schwarber’s prodigious shots earlier in the night were missing because the Cubs slugger had the misfortune of competing against local hero Bryce Harper in the final of the Home Run Derby.

Schwarber put up 18 in the final round, only to lose 19-18 as Harper tied him with a buzzer-beater after a furious finish and added a center-field shot to win it in bonus time.

It was a classic ending to a Derby that lacked the big sluggers of past years but wound up with some thrills along the way.

Cubs All-Star Javier Baez also competed, losing in the first round to the Dodgers’ Max Muncy.

Schwarber was on his game most of the night but looked cooked in the semifinal matchup against the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins when he needed nine home runs to tie with one minute, 32 seconds left. He went on a long-ball spree to win 21-20 on a last-second buzzer-beater, even pausing with about 12 seconds left to point to his National League pals cheering him on a few feet away.

Being in your first Home Run Derby is a nerve-wracking experience, as reigning champion Aaron Judge explained.

“It is a lot that first time,” Judge said. “The craziest thing for me was hitting without a cage around me on the field. That’s a little different, hitting BP without a little turtle around you. The biggest thing is to take your time and just to get in that groove. A lot of guys, that first minute, they’re just swinging, swinging, swinging.

“But four minutes is a lot of time. The biggest thing is taking your time, conserving your energy and just have some fun with it. Give the fans what they want, a little show.”

Schwarber and Harper did just that.

Schwarber chose Mike Sanicola, a friend of his agent, to pitch to him.

“I would have picked my dad, but he’s a little bit too old,” he said with a laugh.

Did he tell him that?

“Yeah,” Schwarber replied. “He’s had too many falls on his bike too.”

What was his game plan?

“You just can’t take it too seriously,” he said. “Just go out there and wing it.”

Schwarber “winged it” with 14 homers in his allotted four minutes in the first round, then was awarded another 30 seconds of bonus time for hitting at least two homers of 440 feet or more. His longest was a 450-foot shot.

It turned out Schwarber needed the extra time. He wound up edging the Astros’ Alex Bregman 16-15 when the clock ran out on Bregman as his last attempt hit high off the outfield wall.

Baez chose his brother, Gadiel, to pitch to him, explaining: “I can yell at him if he don’t do it right.” He also got some advice from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who both lost in the first round while competing in San Diego in 2016.

“I’m ready to put on a show,” Baez said. “They said I’d get tired. I’m not going to take it easy, but hopefully I’ll get a little rest.”

Baez got off to a slow start with only three home runs in the first minute. He then turned it on and like Schwarber was granted bonus time for a couple of prodigious shots. He wound up with 16, but Muncy hit his 17th with more than 30 seconds left.

Baez had the longest homer of the first round with a 479-foot shot.

The Home Run Derby field was without any of the top five home run hitters from the first half, and the best player of his generation, Mike Trout, has never accepted an invitation to compete, just as LeBron James never did the NBA Slam Dunk contest. That left a field that was somewhat less than stellar, kind of like the Slam Dunk contest since Blake Griffin won in 2011.

It didn’t match the power display of last year’s Derby in Miami, where Judge hit 23 in the first round and 47 overall, spraying to all fields at Marlins Park. Had Judge accepted, it might’ve been a different ending.

“I enjoyed my time in the Home Run Derby,” Judge said. “I had a great time doing it. Now it’s time for somebody else to win it.”

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Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (34) during the second inning against the Miami Marlins on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. Harper won the Home Run Derby. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/TNS)

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper (34) during the second inning against the Miami Marlins on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. Harper won the Home Run Derby. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/TNS)

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