Pablo Sandoval hit a record-equaling three home runs to help the San Francisco Giants down the Detroit Tigers 8-3 in the World Series opener on Wednesday and put himself into the same class as Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols.
The vocal San Francisco crowd roared as the Venezuelan connected on his four at-bats and drove in four runs.
“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Sandoval said.
Pujols homered three times last year, Jackson accomplished the feat in 1977 and Ruth did it in 1926 and again in 1928.
Justin Verlander, the reigning Cy Young Pitching Award winner so dominant in this post-season, looked uncomfortable from the start and constantly pawed at the mound.
After giving up a solo shot in the first inning to Sandoval, Verlander could only mouth: “Wow,” after the Giants star launched a two-run drive in the third. Sandoval reprised his power show from this year’s All-Star game, when his bases-loaded triple highlighted a five-run first inning against Verlander.
If there was any doubt that Verlander was shaky, the best sign came in the fourth when pitcher Barry Zito, a career .099 hitter, sliced an RBI single with two outs for a 6-0 lead.
“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.”
Sandoval hit a solo homer off relief pitcher Al Alburquerque in the fifth inning, then for good measure lined a single his last time up.
From start to finish, it was basically a perfect game by the Giants coming off a Game 7 win over St Louis in the National League Championship Series on Monday.
‘We played our last game only two days ago,” Sandoval said. “We’re still hot. We just came here and played our game.”
Zito shut out the Tigers until Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI single in the sixth and Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to prevent further damage.
NL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Marco Scutaro hit RBI singles after doubles by Angel Pagan. NL Batting champion Buster Posey contributed two hits and left-fielder Gregor Blanco made diving catches to rob Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Game 2 was scheduled for yesterday, with Doug Fister starting for the Tigers against Madison Bumgarner.
The Tigers seemed out of sync in their first game following a five-day layoff. That was an issue in 2006, too, when Verlander and his teammates had nearly a week off before getting wiped out by the Cardinals.
American League championship series MVP Delmon Young failed to run after a tapper in front of the plate that the Giants turned into a double play. The Giants, meanwhile, kept getting good bounces, with Pagan hitting a double that hopped off the third-base bag.
Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth off mop-up reliever George Kontos.