SAN FRANCISCO â?? Pablo Sandoval got a mere three at-bats when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series two years ago. It took him just three at-bats Wednesday to not only erase that memory, but join one of the most exclusive clubs in history as well.
The San Francisco Giants third baseman banged out home runs in his first three times up, two of them against Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, powering an 8-3 victory in Game 1 of the World Series.
Only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (twice) and Reggie Jackson, plus three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, had hit three homers in a World Series game. The most recent was Pujols last year in Game 3 against the Texas Rangers.
BOX SCORE: Giants 8, Tigers 3
NIGHTENGALE: Giants' Game 1 win defies logic
"It's an unforgettable feat for me and those around me,'' Sandoval said. "After the last one, when I stepped on second base I said, 'Wow, I can't believe I hit three home runs in the World Series.'''
Sandoval had only 12 home runs in a regular season shortened by injuries, and didn't connect once between July 13 and Sept. 18, missing some of that time with a strained hamstring.
But he had begun heating up after the first two games of the National League Championship Series, when he cut down on a swing that had gotten too long.
He got quick results with two hits in Game 3 and a seemingly meaningless two-run homer in the ninth inning of an 8-3 Game 4 loss. That turned out to be the beginning of a torrid spell in which he has hit five bombs in five games.
Sandoval arrived at the World Series on a roll, batting .368 with three homers and nine RBI in his previous nine postseason games.
In his fourth at-bat Wednesday, he singled in the seventh inning to finish 4-for-4 with four RBI.
Nobody had homered thrice at AT&T Park since the Los Angeles Dodgers' Kevin Elster in the first game ever at the ballpark, April 11, 2000.
"Everybody was like, 'Oh my God, no way he has two homers.' 'No, he hit another one,''' said Gregor Blanco, who made two diving catches in left field to help Barry Zito navigate 5 2/3 inning while allowing just one run. "It was unbelievable.''
Sandoval's star faded in 2010, when he was considerably overweight, lost his starting job and was used intermittently in the playoffs after a disappointing season that saw his batting average dip by 62 points to .268.
"He got humbled,'' hitting coach Hensley Meulens said. "He didn't play in the four most important games of that year for us. He said that's not going to happen to me again.''
Indeed, he has recovered his regular job and earned invites to the last two All-Star Games, hitting a bases-loaded triple against Verlander at Kansas City in July as the NL gained homefield advantage in the World Series with an 8-0 win."
In 2010 I was only a pinch-hitter and now I'm playing every day,'' Sandoval said after hitting .310 with two homers and six RBI in this year's NLCS. "Things change when you work hard and put it all together.''
The Giants did just that in pounding Verlander for five runs in four innings. That was more than twice as many runs as the Tigers rotation gave up in 27 1/3 innings while sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS.
The home runs against Verlander stoked a sellout crowd and stunned the Tigers, who were counting on the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner to set the tone in the series.
Sandoval got the attack going with a bomb to center field off a high 95 mph fastball in the first inning."
I tried to elevate there and didn't get it high enough,'' Verlander said. "Obviously, I didn't quite know he was that locked in at that point.''
He knows now.
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Read the original story: A Giant start: Sandoval slugs three HRs in win vs. Tigers