LOS ANGELES — No three-peat for Pete.
Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, among the best advertisements Major League Baseball has for what has become the highlight of the All-Star Game festivities in recent years — the Home Run Derby — could not make it three straight Derby titles Monday night.
After getting past Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr., 20-19, in the first round, the two-time defending champion lost to the Mariners’ Julio Rodriguez, 31-23, in the second round.
“You have so much talent in the game, and anyone can win on any given night because these are the best of the best. It’s the big leagues,” 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. It was really special for him.”
He certainly had no regrets. “Oh, it was excellent,” Alonso said. “I had so much fun out there. Sometimes it’s just not good enough. I thought I put up a great performance but J-Rod, he was just better tonight. He was absolutely electric . . . I hope he takes it home.”
The 21-year-old Rodriguez couldn’t quite do so, falling to the Nationals’ Juan Soto, 19-18, in the final. Nevertheless, Rodriguez — who beat the Rangers’ Corey Seager, 32-24, in the first round — continued his national coming-out party (much the way Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did in 2019, when he lost to Alonso in the final in Cleveland).
Soto, 23, defeated Jose Ramirez, 18-17, in the first round and beat 42-year-old Albert Pujols, 16-15, in the second round. Pujols, who ranks fifth on the all-time homer list (685), upset top-seeded Kyle Schwarber, 20-19, in extra time in the first round.
Alonso, speaking earlier in the day, didn’t sound as if winning or not winning would be the determining factor in whether he would participate in the Derby in the future. “This event’s a blast,” he said. smiling, something he always seems to do when discussing the Derby. “It’s a super-exciting day. I’m ready.”
The second-seeded Alonso, who won the 2019 Derby and the 2021 event in Denver (there was no All-Star Game during the 2020 pandemic-shortened season), had Dave Jauss throwing to him for the second straight Derby. Former Mets bench coach Jauss, 65, is now a senior adviser for the Nationals.
“It would be really special,” Alonso had said of a possible three-peat. “But today I’m not just competing for myself, I’m competing for my foundation, the Alonso Foundation. Any money won tonight, it’s going to do a lot of good things, including helping different children and animals and different families and such. Really excited to compete for the Alonso Foundation.”
Aaron Judge, the 2017 winner, has declined to participate in the Derby since then. He has said the only time he’d do it again would be if it’s at Yankee Stadium. He said he would be rooting on Alonso from the sideline to get the three-peat but, in saying that, also predicted a big night for Rodriguez.
“That would be something special,” Judge said of Alonso. “He’s not only one of the best hitters but one of the best power hitters in the game. For him to go out and win it for the third year in a row . . . I like J-Rod, he might be able to put on a show for the fans, but you can’t go against the champ.”
The champ made it to the semifinals but, on this night, no further. “If I’m healthy and I’m willing and able, then absolutely,” Alonso said of doing the Derby again. “I love this event. If I’m physically able to, I’m more than likely going to do it . . . We [he and Jauss] were really good. Julio was just better. Tip your hat.”
Giancarlo Stanton, the 2016 winner in San Diego, hasn’t competed since 2017, when he was upset in the first round by the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez in Miami.
Stanton, a Los Angeles native who spent his childhood going to Dodger Stadium with his father, Mike, strongly indicated he would participate in this year’s Derby but ultimately decided against it. “It was more the schedule. It’s a very short break and we go right into a doubleheader [Thursday in Houston],” he said Monday. “Just [wanted to] relax and enjoy the day.”
Alonso said he wouldn’t have minded seeing Judge or Stanton — or both — competing Monday. “I mean, it would have been a blast,” he said. “But those guys, they choose what they need to do and do what’s right for their body.
“For me, I feel like I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I feel good, but if other guys are concerned about their health and their ability to compete during the year, that’s their call. It would be great if they did it, but I completely understand. If they think it’s going to take away from the team, then so be it.”
With David Lennon