'I love this event': Alonso's Derby reign ends in 2022 semis

July 19th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- There was no three-Pete in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

Pete Alonso’s bid to become the first slugger to win three straight Derby titles came up short Monday night at Dodger Stadium, as the Mets' first baseman was ousted in the semifinals by Julio Rodríguez, the Mariners’ electric rookie All-Star.

“You have so much talent in the game, and anyone can win on any given night because these are the best of the best,” Alonso said. “I'm happy I won two in a row; that's incredibly difficult and incredibly special. For Julio to take me down, someone had to at some point.”

Rodríguez ultimately fell to Juan Soto in the finals, as the Nationals’ star became the first winner other than Alonso since 2019.

J-Rod handed Alonso his first-ever Derby defeat, beating him by a tally of 31-23 in the semifinals. Entering the night, Alonso had been one of four players in Derby history to register a 30-homer round, but J-Rod accomplished the feat in each of his first two rounds, the latter ending Alonso’s bid for a third straight title.

“It’s really difficult; to be that consistent and be that on for the whole thing, that was special,” Alonso said of J-Rod. “He put on an absolute display of what a Home Run Derby should be. That was spectacular.”

After successfully defending his title at last summer’s Home Run Derby at Coors Field, Alonso declared himself to be “the best power hitter on the planet.”

The Mets' slugger was the No. 2 seed in this year’s event, ranked behind only Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies based on their first-half home runs.

Alonso drew Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves in the first round, setting up a showdown between National League East rivals.

Acuña hit 19 during his first round, giving Alonso a nice round number to aim for. With Dave Jauss -- a former Mets coach who now works as a special assistant with the Nationals -- throwing to him for a second straight year, Alonso stepped up needing 20 homers to advance.

Alonso lined his first swing down the left-field line, the bullet clearing the wall for his first homer. After that, the two-time All-Star crushed a 480-foot blast, beginning a run of one towering moonshot after another. Alonso surpassed 400 feet on 15 straight homers, including six of more than 440 feet, earning him 60 bonus seconds in the round.

That extra time proved to be crucial, as Alonso found himself with 17 homers at the end of his three-minute round. He only needed 30 seconds to hit the three homers necessary to defeat Acuña, launching a 423-foot homer to clinch another trip to the semis as teammates Starling Marte, Jeff McNeil and Edwin Díaz ran to congratulate him.

“In the zone,” Alonso said when asked how he felt in the first round. Seven of his 20 homers registered at 110 mph or more off the bat, the hardest reaching 115 mph. In total, Alonso’s 20 homers measured a combined 1.63 miles.

“I’m out here having fun, competing for something a little bigger than myself,” said Alonso, who planned to donate any winnings to his charitable foundation.

Next up for Alonso was J-Rod, who drilled 32 home runs in the first round to dispose of the Rangers’ Corey Seager. J-Rod was trying to repeat Alonso’s 2019 feat of winning the Derby as a rookie, and after hitting 23 in his three-minute round, the Seattle All-Star added eight more in his bonus time, giving him a total of 31.

Alonso did his best to move on, but he managed just 23 homers during his four minutes (including bonus time), ending his lengthy reign as the Derby champion.

“I had so much fun out there,” Alonso said. “Sometimes it's just not good enough. I thought I put up a great performance, but J-Rod was just better tonight. He was absolutely electric. … I just wanted to be able to enjoy every moment. It’s not every day you get to do this. It's such a lovely moment.”

Having suffered his first Derby loss, does Alonso plan to return next summer in J-Rod’s hometown of Seattle to try to reclaim his title, or are his two previous victories enough to quench that thirst?

“If I'm healthy and I'm willing and able, then absolutely,” Alonso said. “I love this event; I think it's an absolute blast. If I’m physically able to, then I’m more than likely going to do it.”