07/14/2003 11:48 PM ET
Giambi outslugged in HR Derby
MLB.TV interviews Giambi before the Derby: 56K | 300K
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
56k | 300k
CHICAGO -- After the first round, it looked like Jason Giambi was on his way to a second consecutive Home Run Derby title.
Then he met up with Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals' Triple Crown threat eliminated Giambi in a second-round slugfest, out-homering the Yankees' slugger, 14-12, to send Giambi back to the bench after just two rounds.
"The year he's having is phenomenal," Giambi said. "He's got a lot of power, he's hitting balls to right field. That's pretty incredible in a Home Run Derby. That's a joke. He's unbelievable."
"I wish I would have seen Big Mac in one of these Home Run Derbys," Pujols said. "I get to watch it on TV, the performance that he and Sammy Sosa put on. And Giambi now, he has pretty much taken over for those guys. That guy's amazing. Giambi is a guy that you want to top right away. If you get the opportunity, you want to hit as many home runs as you can."
Giambi put on a show by bashing 12 homers in the first round, the most by any of the eight contestants. He was the last hitter to step to the plate, needing just five home runs to advance to the second round.
Five swings into his round, Giambi found himself with no home runs and five outs. Then the fun began. The Yankees' first baseman drilled 10 long balls in his next 12 swings, cruising past Anaheim's Garret Anderson for the first-round lead. Even though he had already qualified with his fifth homer, Giambi put on a show for the fans, swatting 12 homers in the opening round, just two shy of his own record, set in Seattle in 2001.
"You get the adrenaline flowing when you start putting a few together," Giambi said. "I'll never pace myself. I don't buy the strategies, I just go up there and swing as hard as I can, have a good time."
With a head-to-head format in the semi-finals, Giambi found himself matched up with Pujols, who hit just four homers in the opening round. The other matchup featured Anderson and Jim Edmonds. Anderson outlasted his former Angels teammate, 6-4.
Pujols batted before Giambi, and the Cardinals' All-Star hit five home runs in his first 10 swings. That's when he stepped it up, launching six straight homers, adding three more in his next four swings. He finished the round with 14, tying Giambi's record from 2001 -- and leaving Giambi with a huge mountain to climb.
"I'm thinking I need to set a new record," joked Giambi. "I watched him put on that display, so I knew I had to get hot right away. I did it once before, so I thought I had a chance."
Giambi homered on his second swing, but recorded four consecutive outs after that. He homered on three of his next four swings, giving him four, but he still stood 10 shy of tying Pujols. Giambi made a valiant effort, hitting seven homers in his next nine swings. With 11 homers and nine outs, his final swing fell short of the wall, eliminating him from the event.
"Albert had such an incredible round, so I just tried to go up there and hit as many as I could. I got too many outs too quick. I got hot but I wasn't able to catch him," 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."
"I hit some balls good, but it doesn't matter. Look at Jason Giambi," Pujols said. "I thought I wasn't going to pass that round. Even though I hit 14, I knew Jason could get hot out there and put up some big numbers. He got hot. He hit like seven in a row and I was like, 'Oh, here he comes.'"
Giambi may have lost his title, but at least he went down swinging. His 23 homers over two rounds were one more than Anderson hit in three rounds on his way to winning the event.
"He was awesome, he just ran into a buzzsaw," said John Giambi, Jason's father. "Pujols was terrific. He's quite a hitter."
"I had a good time putting a show on for the fans. I'm glad I was able to give him a run for his money," Jason Giambi said. "I think the fans had a great time. It was exciting. I had a lot of fun out there."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.