Pablo Sandoval slugged his way into the record books and Barry Zito out-pitched the game’s best pitcher, which explains how the San Francisco Giants took Game 1 of the World Series over the Detroit Tigers, 8-3, at AT&T Park.
With a body so round his teammates call him “Panda,” Sandoval nonetheless swung the bat against the hard-throwing Justin Verlander as if he were Reggie Jackson. Three times Sandoval hit home runs Wednesday night in his first three at-bats, which is something only three other men in baseball lore has done: Jackson, Albert Puljos and Babe Ruth.
“We played our last game only two days ago,” Sandoval said. “We’re still hot. We just came here and played our game.”
Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner so dominant in this postseason, looked uncomfortable from the outset and constantly pawed at the mound.
“I just didn’t execute tonight,” Verlander said. “It was kind of a battle from the get-go. They took advantage of that and swung the bat pretty well, especially Pablo and (Marco) Scutaro. A couple of good bounces their way, bad for us.”
Zito was especially proud of his effort after being excluded from the Giants’ 2010 World Series roster. He shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera had an RBI single in the sixth. The Giants won for the 14th straight time with Zito starting.
“Just the opportunity alone was mind-blowing. Me and my wife were dancing around when I heard,” Zito said of getting the Game 1 start. “And then the boys came out swinging and played great defense.”
As outstanding as Zito was, Sandoval was more impressive. His home run in the first inning gave the Giants confidence that they could break through against Verlander, who has been almost unhittable. He went yard again in the third against Verlander and took Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque deep to straightaway centerfield for his third homer in succession.
“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Sandoval said.
Pujols homered three times last year in the World Series, , Jackson accomplished the feat in 1977 and Ruth did it in 1926 and again in 1928.