Entering the 2023 home run derby, the first-round matchup that seemed to get the most hype was a rematch of last year’s semi-finals, Mets‘ Pete Alonso vs. Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez.
Unfortunately for the Polar Bear, he again fell victim to the Dominican superstar as Alonso fell in the first round 42-21, ending his quest for his third home run derby crown.
Alonso’s first-round exit can be pinpointed to two factors: pitching and a hometown hero.
A key storyline for Mets fans leaving this derby will be how poor the pitches to Alonso were.
Mets assistant Aaron Myers (Alonso’s pitcher) became the last-minute replacement for Alonso’s original choice: Mike Friedlein.
According to David Lennon of Newsday, Friedlein developed a forearm issue making him unable to throw tonight.
“His arm just kinda blew up and is super swollen,” Alonso said in an interview aired on Baseball Tonight. “It’s a tough decision; I was like, if you throw as many pitches today, you could hurt yourself. So I was just like listen, there’s gonna be more Derbies to come. We’ll do it another time.”
Unfortunately for Alonso, Myers struggled to deliver consistent pitches over the plate, making an already tall task even taller.
Entering the derby, Alonso already knew he would be heading into enemy territory. He was even booed when coming to the plate and cheered when his first few swings didn’t leave the park.
This, of course, had nothing to do with Seattle hating Alonso but more with just how much the city loves Rodríguez.
Rodríguez became a fan favorite last season for the Mariner faithful. The 22-year-old broke onto the scene last season and captured the American League Rookie of the Year Award while helping end one of the longest active postseason droughts in professional sports.
So as expected, when Rodríguez got introduced pre-derby, he received a fantastic ovation, and T-Mobile Park was buzzing when he stepped into the box for his opening-round matchup.
Rodríguez fed off that energy leading to a first-round record of 41 home runs ( a record previously held by Alonso) and broke Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s record for most home runs in a single round.
Alonso said it himself in his post-derby interview posted by SNY, “Unfortunately, [I] ran into a buzzsaw.”
Hopefully, for the blue and orange faithful, 2024 will be the year that Alonso becomes a three-time Derby champ.