ST. LOUIS -- Joe Mauer has found his home run swing this year, connecting for a career-high 15 by the midpoint of the season. That swing didn't carry him far enough in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby, though.
The Minnesota Twins star went deep with his first two swings of the night and finished with a first-round total of five, positioning himself in fourth place with only Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols left to hit. Pujols seemed a lock to exceed that total but ended up needing back-to-back homers with nine outs to just tie Mauer and the Rays' Carlos Pena.
The three-way tie to earn the final berth in the semifinals brought on a swing-off in which each of the three hitters got five additional swings. After Pena went deep with one his five cuts, Mauer was unable to go deep with any of his five additional swings, officially ending his Derby participation.
Pujols promptly advanced to the second round when two of his first three swings produced home runs.
Mauer's longest homer traveled 458 feet to right field. In fact, all but one of his homers traveled to about the same spot near the Cardinals' bullpen. His other homer landed in Busch Stadium's grassy slope in straightaway center.
Mauer had agreed to compete in the Derby with one stipulation -- Jim O'Neill, Mauer's baseball coach from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, would join him. O'Neill agreed late Thursday night, and Mauer officially accepted the invite on Friday. This was Mauer's second Home Run Derby, his last coming at the Lions' All-Star Game when he was a high-schooler in Minnesota.
"As a kid, you always watch the Derby, and it's something you want to be a part of," Mauer said. "When they asked me, I jumped at it."
Mauer's early exit also kept the Twins from the chance at claiming back-to-back Derby crowns. Teammate and fellow All-Star Justin Morneau took the crown at Yankee Stadium last season.