07/14/2003 10:58 PM ET
Pujols puts on a power display
Ties single-round Home Run Derby record with 14
CHICAGO -- In a bit of math that resembled the electoral college in a convoluted year, Albert Pujols tied both the single-round and overall records for homers in the Century 21 Home Run Derby, yet finished second to Garret Anderson in the final tally.
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Pujols blasted 26 homers, tying Sammy Sosa's record from 2000. He mashed 14 in his semifinal round duel with Jason Giambi, tying a mark set by Giambi in the first round in 2001. And he crushed the longest single homer of the night, a 478-foot monster of a blast to left field in that second round.
Still, he fell, 9-8, in the final round to Anaheim's Anderson. And he didn't mind one bit.
"I couldn't be more happy," said an exhausted Pujols. "It would be nice if I had won it, but I'm happy for Anderson."
Pujols hit four homers in the first round, but advanced thanks to a tiebreaker based on regular-season homers so far this year. He blitzed his way to 14 in the second round, and put up a respectable total of eight in the final. Cardinals teammate Jim Edmonds also tallied four in the first round, but didn't heat up in the second round. He lost, 6-4, to his friend and former teammate Anderson.
"We're real tight," Edmonds said of Anderson. "That was really cool. We're as tight as you can get, I think. It was tough. I'm sitting in the middle. I didn't know who to root for, my teammate or one of my best friends. It was awesome. It's just fun to watch."
Pujols, however, was the story. In another installment of a week that seems to be announcing his arrival as a true superstar, he electrified the crowd in the second round. When he tied Sosa's record, he stepped out and tipped his cap to the crowd of 47,619.
As amazing as anything was the way he did it. Rather than pull and pull and pull some more, he throttled balls to all fields. His four first-inning homers went to left, but after that, 11 of his next 22 went to center, right-center or right field.
"The first round I tried to pull the ball because it was tough to hit the ball out to center field," he said. "But by the second round, when I hit one ball out of the park over the right-field wall, I was like, I'm gonna go that way. Because that's where my power is.
"If I can extend those arms, I've got a better chance to get the ball. And I was staying on the ball real good. It was great, man. It was awesome. I'm just looking forward to having another experience like that and another opportunity."
Pujols went first in the semifinal round, leaving Giambi in a deep hole. The Yankees slugger and defending Home Run Derby champion knew he needed to top 14 to advance. Yet he almost did it.
"Albert had an incredible second round," Giambi said. "That's the hard part of the second round. You can run into someone who's red-hot. He put on an incredible display, especially for his first home run contest."
Unfortunately for Pujols, Anderson put on a fine display of his own in the final. Going first, the consistent Angels outfielder sprayed nine homers.
Pujols did have a chance. He went deep to left on his first two swings, then made three consecutive outs. At his sixth out, he was stuck on four homers and it wasn't looking good -- then he smoked three straight, one each to left, right and center. Another out followed by another homer gave him three chances to tie Anderson, but the closest he came was on a line drive to the wall on his last swing.
"It's tough, man," Pujols said. "After Garret put up nine, I was like, 'Man, I don't think I can get that much out there after that performance I had in the second round.' I think I got seven home runs with six out, then I hit no. 8 and I was like, 'OK, maybe I can hit two more here.'"
Even without the win, though, he was delighted. And Edmonds, among others, was impressed.
"It's pretty extraordinary, considering this is one of the toughest places to hit in the league," Edmonds said. "This isn't probably the best place for a Home Run Derby, but you've got to make do with what you've got, and he put on a show. It was pretty fun to watch."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.