ST. LOUIS — Prince Fielder beat the hometown boppers on their own turf. With Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard eliminated early, Fielder won baseball's Home Run Derby on Monday night with a steady power display that included a jaw-dropping drive estimated at 503 feet.
ST. LOUIS — Prince Fielder beat the hometown boppers on their own turf.
With Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard eliminated early, Fielder won baseball's Home Run Derby on Monday night with a steady power display that included a jaw-dropping drive estimated at 503 feet.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ first baseman outslugged Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz 6-5 in the finals at Busch Stadium to take home a title that St. Louis fans surely hoped would go to one of their own.
“It’s what I expected. This is Albert’s stadium and Ryan is from here,” Fielder said. “I was just happy I was able to put on a show and I’m glad I won.”
Pujols, the Cardinals’ big first baseman, and Howard, who grew up in the Gateway City, were knocked out in the second round.
This year’s All-Star festivities were supposed to belong to Pujols in his home ballpark. But Fielder snatched the spotlight in the annual warmup for Tuesday night’s Midsummer Classic.
With three outs remaining in the final round, Fielder smacked a drive onto the grassy hill in center field to clinch the crown. He posed for a moment with his bat held high, then embraced Brewers teammate Ryan Braun near home plate.
Pujols, who leads the majors with 32 homers, needed a late rally just to avoid elimination in the first round. With one out to work with, he connected on consecutive swings to force a three-player swing-off for the final spot in round 2, sending the red-clad crowd of 45,981 into a high-fiving frenzy.
One fan in the bleachers lent a helping hand, too, appearing to reach over the fence in right-center to catch one of Pujols’ homers. During a game it might have been ruled fan interference, but there’s no video replay in the derby.
Carlos Pena hit one homer in the five-swing tiebreaker and Joe Mauer was shut out. So when Pujols homered twice he moved on — but not for long.
Looking tired, he managed six homers next time up for a two-round total of 11, easily surpassed by Fielder, Cruz and Howard, the 2006 derby champ.
“I wish I would have put a better show for our fans,” Pujols said. “I was nervous a little bit.”
After his final swing, he received a warm ovation anyway.
“Thank you so much for your support,” Pujols told the crowd.
The two-time MVP also failed to come through for a fan right before the contest. With a chance to win an attractive prize package, Mark Weinberger of Philadelphia pointed to left field a couple of times — calling Pujols’ shot.
Alas, the St. Louis slugger was unable to clear the fences.
Fielder hit the longest shot of the night, a 503-foot drive to right-center that disappeared between two sections of bleachers.
During the first round, Cruz hit a drive into the fourth deck in left field, never accomplished during a game at 4-year-old Busch Stadium.
Fielder and Cruz both have 22 home runs. Cruz, enjoying a breakout season, was a late addition to the All-Star roster because of an injury to Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter
Brandon Inge, Adrian Gonzalez, Pena and Mauer were knocked out in the first round. Inge, the Detroit Tigers’ 5-foot-11 third baseman, became the eighth contestant to get shut out since the current format was adopted in 1996. Jason Bay was the previous one in 2005.
None of the participants were able to match Josh Hamilton’s amazing performance last year at Yankee Stadium, where he hit a record 28 homers in the first round — including 13 in a row.
Despite an injury-plagued first half, Hamilton was elected by fans to start in the outfield Tuesday night. But he skipped the derby this time, honoring a request by Texas manager Ron Washington.
Minnesota slugger Justin Morneau, the 2008 derby champion, also sat out.