SAN FRANCISCO – Deep into the autumn night the baseballs climbed, three white streaks soaring to the AT&T Park bleachers. Each time Pablo Sandoval dropped his bat and watched history fly. Three home runs the San Francisco Giants' third baseman hit in Game 1 of the World Series, something done only three other times in a World Series game.
And so Sandoval jogged around the bases Wednesday night as 42,855 fans chanted his name in an improbable 8-3 rout of the Detroit Tigers that was stunning in the fact Sandoval and the Giants pounded Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who is widely considered the best pitcher in baseball. In fact the pounding of Verlander was so complete – six hits and five runs in just four innings – he was gone by the fifth inning.
"Just going up against Verlander, I was coming out here expecting a game that was going to be 1‑0, 2‑0," Giants starter Barry Zito said.
[Related: Angel Pagan gets strangest hit of night]
By the time Verlander exited, the game was out of hand, lost in a haze of events as freakish and unimaginable as Sandoval's record home runs. There was Zito, whose once-brilliant career had stumbled in recent years, slicing through the Detroit lineup with looping curveballs the Tigers could not touch. And even when the Tigers attempted to crawl back into a game it seemed stunned to be losing, crazy things kept getting in the way, like the ground ball struck by the Tigers' Delmon Young in the fourth inning against Zito. The ball appeared to hit in foul territory – Young seemed to think it did – but was snatched up by catcher Buster Posey who quickly tagged Young and fired to second for a double play that killed the rally.
Amazing too were the two diving catches by Giants left fielder Grego Blanco that stifled Detroit chances in the third and sixth. And who could explain the ground ball that the Giants' Angel Pagan hit in the third that struck third base and rolled into left field for a double? Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera could only throw back his head and roll his eyes in frustration.
[SeatGeek: Buy World Series tickets]
Two batters later Sandoval hit the second of his three home runs and the rout was on.
"Man, I still can't believe it," Sandoval said of his performance. "When you're a little kid, you dream of being in the World Series, but I was thinking of being in this situation, three homers in one game."
In the end, the night was Sandoval's. The only other men to hit three home runs in a World Series game are Babe Ruth who did it in 1926 and 1928, Reggie Jackson in 1977 and Albert Pujols last year. He finished the night with four hits in four at bats and 13 total bases.
He now has six home runs in the postseason. And the bat he used to club three of them Wednesday night is off to one of baseball's holiest places.
"The guy from Cooperstown [took] it," Sandoval said.
Given the way the Giants hit Verlander, the seemingly indomitable Tigers suddenly look a lot less intimidating.
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