September 16, 2011
You know that excess poundage Pablo Sandoval(notes) appears to have regained over the course of the season? I think he was able to work most of that off while running the bases at Coors Field on Thursday night.
The man affectionately known as the Kung Fu Panda reached base five times in the San Francisco Giants' fifth straight victory, an 8-5 decision over the Colorado Rockies, and became only the second major league player to hit for the cycle this season. The other was Milwaukee Brewers backup catcher George Kottaras(notes) on Sept 3.
Probably not the first two guys you'd list as legitimate threats to hit for a cycle on a given day, but Sandoval's effort is a little less surprising if only because it took place at spacious Coors Field, where 10 cycles have occurred since it opened in 1995.
Sandoval began his unexpected journey with a first-inning two-run homer, his 20th of the season. He then followed with a single in the second and a perfectly placed opposite-field double in the fifth. That set the stage for Sandoval to make history, and he didn't waste any time when he came to the plate in the sixth.
On a 2-2 pitch, Sandoval would hit a fly ball to the base of the wall in right-center field that Carlos Gonzalez(notes) couldn't run down. Gonzalez's momentum then carried him into the wall, where he aggravated a previous wrist injury and went to the ground. This allowed Sandoval the extra steps he needed to round second and beat the relay throw with a head first into third for his second triple of the season.
Talk about the stars aligning.
Exactly how you'd expect.
"I was tired, but I was happy," said Sandoval. "It was my first time [hitting] a cycle in the big leagues, so I had to be happy. No matter what, if I'm tired, I'm still going to be happy."
But if you had to say which feeling was more prevalent, would tired come before happy?
Too bad no one asked him that.
Sandoval's first cycle was the 23rd overall in Giants history, and the 10th since moving to San Francisco. The last was accomplished by Fred Lewis(notes) on May 13, 2007, which also came at Coors Field.
It's also interesting to note that Sandoval completed the cycle entirely against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin(notes). The last time that happened was July 6, 1999, when Chris Singleton of the Chicago White Sox singled, tripled, doubled and homered in seven innings against then Kansas City Royals starter Jeff Suppan(notes).
"He hit everything I threw," Chacin said. "He hit a homer with a fastball, the base hit was a changeup. (The double) was off the plate and down and he just put the bat on it and he hit it to the other side. It was his night."
That's the danger of pitching to a locked-in free-swinger with a nose-to-toes strike zone. By the time Colorado wised up and intentionally walked Sandoval in the eighth, it was too late to change the outcome of the game. But even with the Rockies giving him a free pass, I wasn't completely convinced Sandoval wouldn't take one more mighty hack.
He restrained himself ... this time.