Guerrero edges Rios to win dry Home Run Derby

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols grimaced after he hit in the second round. He ended the round with 13 home runs. (Jeff Chiu ~ Associated Press)

Albert Pujols came up one homer shy of making the finals.

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Barry Bonds sitting out, this derby was dry -- and Vladimir Guerrero was San Francisco's home run king for a day.

The Los Angeles Angels slugger won the Home Run Derby on Monday night, hitting 17 homers and beating Toronto's Alex Rios 3-2 in the final round of the All-Star competition.

None of the eight batters managed a true "splash hit" over the right-field fence and into the waterfront park's iconic McCovey Cove. Dozens of eager fans wearing wetsuits and carrying nets amid the flotilla of kayaks and rafts ended up scrambling for just a handful of foul balls and ricochets during nearly six hours of batting practice and derby slugging.

But the four semifinalists sent balls into every other corner of a park that's usually a nightmare for any hitter not named Bonds.

Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero watched one of his home runs Monday in the third round of the All-Star Home Run Derby in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu ~ Associated Press)

Guerrero, who managed just two homers in his only previous derby appearance back in 2000, also produced the contest's most fearsome shot: a 503-footer to left that fell just short of the oversized baseball mitt looming over the outfield bleachers -- a target that still hasn't been hit during a game in the park's 8-year history.

"The first time I came in 2000, I swung at every pitch, so you learn," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I came back this year with a different philosophy. I was going to try to take a pitch between, to rest a little bit."

Albert Pujols, who hasn't homered for the Cardinals since June 14 during the longest drought of his career, finished one homer shy of the finalists.

Guerrero indulged in various shenanigans with his friends and AL teammates during the first two rounds, re-taping his fingers and getting a towel-down in the middle of competition -- and when Guerrero failed to homer on his first three swings in the first round, David Ortiz made a special delivery.

The Boston star charged to home plate, dramatically tossed away Guerrero's bat and called for a friend to carry a large wooden case to them. After removing a new bat from the case, Ortiz kissed the lumber and presented it to Guerrero, who used it to hit five homers on his next nine swings.

"It was my bat, and we had it planned if I wasn't doing well at the beginning, he was going to bring it out to me," Guerrero said.

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