SAN FRANCISCO - These San Francisco Giants can't be for real, can they?
When did they sell their soul to the devil, making circus catches, getting bizarre bounces, and turning Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander into Barry Zito and Barry Zito into Justin Verlander?
The Giants crushed the Tigers 8-3 in a game so surreal, you would have thought that General Motors moved their headquarters to Alcatraz, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave up Marlboros.
What was so more stunning, watching Pablo Sandoval morph into Reggie Jackson, or Verlander, the defending MVP and Cy Young winner, unable to make it to the fifth inning?
"That was not a good night,'' Tigers Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera said of Sandoval. "That was an unbelievable night.''
It was a historical night. Sandoval became only the fourth player to hit three homers in a World Series game, joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols. In fact, no player has hit three homers at AT&T Park since the Los Angeles Dodgers' Kevin Elster - in the park's opening game in 2000.
The most stunning aspect of Sandoval's feat was that two of the homers came off Verlander. The dude came into the game with a 3-0 record and 0.74 ERA this postseason and gave up six hits and five runs in four innings.
"That was extremely impressive,'' Verlander said. "I wish I hadn't contributed.''
Meanwhile, Zito, who was nothing more than a $126 million cheerleader and kept off the postseason roster in 2010, suffocated the Tigers lineup without throwing a pitch above 85 mph. Maybe the Giants' 15-0 record in Zito's last 15 starts isn't a fluke after all.
"Just going up against Verlander,'' Zito said, "I was coming out here expecting a game that was going to be 1-0, 2-0. ... It was just awesome, man. It's just kind of surreal.''
It was such a bizarre night that Joe Montana and MC Hammer were seen partying in the same suite at AT&T Park.
"Well, you know,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, laughing, "it's hard to figure this game sometimes.''
The Giants were also a prohibitive underdog in 2010 when they faced the Texas Rangers with former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. Lee came into that game with a 3-0 record and 0.74 ERA in the postseason and exited after 4 2/3 innings, rocked for eight hits and seven runs.
The Rangers were never again the same, eliminated in five games.
The Tigers, who have Verlander scheduled again for Game 5, can only hope for a different fate.
It may be just one game, but let's be honest, this was a momentum changer. When you're watching the greatest pitcher in baseball get crushed, it has a tendency to play games with your psyche.
"I don't know what happened,'' Verlander said. "I just didn't execute. It was kind of a battle for me from the get-go. I didn't know if it was the (seven-day) layoff, or what.''
The Tigers had gone 45 consecutive postseason innings without trailing, but they've now just been introduced to a team that has outscored the opposition 30-4 since Sandoval's homer in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
The Tigers aren't about to panic and pitch Verlander on short rest in Game 4, despite throwing 98 pitches on Wednesday. Verlander has never pitched on short rest in his career and isn't about to now. Besides, Max Scherzer is scheduled to start Game 4, and he pitched better than Verlander during the teeth of the summer.
"It's disappointing,'' Verlander said. "Would you have liked to win Game 1 of the World Series? Absolutely.
"I don't know if you have been watching, but the three guys behind me are pretty good.''
The Tigers insist they'll be just fine, believing that sea of black-and-orange was just an early Halloween party, and that the Giants will wake up to reality this morning.
"This isn't the end of the world,'' Verlander said. "Nobody is hanging their head.''
The Tigers, in fact, were actually laughing in the clubhouse. If they weren't marveling about Sandoval, they were joking about Angel Pagan's routine grounder that caromed crazily off the third-base bag and landed behind Cabrera for a double. Verlander was re-living the scene when pitching coach Jeff Jones came to the mound in the third inning when he fell behind 2-0 to Sandoval.
"I just asked him what he was doing out there,'' Verlander said. "I told Jeff, 'All you're doing is getting the crowd more into it.' "
Well, Verlander got them into a frenzy on the next pitch, with Sandoval sending his 95-mph fastball into the left-field seats.
"Obviously, that sucks for us,'' Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder said. "You don't want to lose. But to see that kind of performance in a World Series is incredible.''
While the Tigers marveled, deep in their hearts, they believe it was some sort of fluke.
Come on, Sandoval hit only 12 homers in the regular season, so now he's Barry Bonds? Verlander has lasted four or fewer innings just twice in three years, and it's going to happen twice in five days? The Tigers have lost only three times in the last 22 days, and now they're going to match that in a week?
It can't possibly happen.
"I'm a guy,'' Leyland says, "that doesn't believe in momentum in baseball. When you use five pitchers in a game that Justin Verlander starts, that's not good tonic. I think momentum is your next day's pitcher.''
And that will be Doug Fister. He'll be facing struggling starter in Madison Bumgarner.
Then again, you can't be sure after tonight.
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Nightengale: Giants' Game 1 win defies logic