SAN FRANCISCO -- Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols ... and the Kung Fu Panda.
Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs, tying a World Series record held by Ruth, Jackson and Pujols, to lead the San Francisco Giants to an 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Wednesday night at AT&T Park.
Sandoval homered in each of his first three at-bats, connecting twice off Tigers ace Justin Verlander. He hit a third homer off reliever Al Alburquerque to tie the record held by the three legendary sluggers.
Ruth set the record in 1926 and tied it in 1928. Jackson had his hat trick in 1977, and Pujols went deep three times last year in Game 3 for St. Louis against Texas.
"When you're a little kid, you dream of being in the World Series, but you don't think of being in this situation where you hit three home runs in a game," Sandoval said.
Sandoval tripled off Verlander in the All-Star Game in July at Kansas City. That gave him a boost of confidence facing a pitcher who was both the MVP and Cy Young Award winner in the American League last season.
"For me, I just go in there and don't try to do too much, get a pitch I can hit, take advantage of the mistakes he (made)," Sandoval said.
Sandoval lined an 0-2 pitch over the center field fence for a solo homer in the first inning to open the scoring. He lined a two-run shot to left to cap a three-run third, then had another solo homer in the fifth inning.
Sandoval had a chance to break the record in the eighth inning but settled for a single to center field off deposed Detroit closer Jose Valverde, who was pitching for the first time since giving up a pair of two-run home runs in the first game of the AL Championship Series 12 days earlier.
Sandoval finished 4-for-4. Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey added two hits apiece for the Giants, who had 11 in total.
The portly Sandoval was a forgotten man when the Giants won the World Series two years ago. He started just once in the Giants' five-game victory over Texas due to being out of shape.
This year has been a whole different story, as Sandoval has hit six home runs in the 2012 postseason after going deep just 12 times in 443 plate appearances in the regular season.
"I'm enjoying this World Series," Sandoval said. "I'm going to enjoy all my moments. You never know when it's going to happen again."
The Giants were last in the major leagues with 103 homers in the regular season.
"He's been locked in for a while, and it's not easy to hit those home runs where he hit them," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Just a tremendous night, a night he's not going for forget."
Verlander, the losing pitcher, lasted four innings and gave up five runs and six hits in a 98-pitch outing. He walked one and struck out four.
Verlander's start was reminiscent of his outing in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. Then a rookie, Verlander was tagged for seven runs in five innings as the Tigers lost 7-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals. Detroit lost that series in five games.
Verlander had not pitched in a week since beating the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS.
"First of all, you give the Giant hitters credit," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Second of all, I think probably a little bit of a layoff hurt Justin. His command was not good. I think he just got out of pitching, started throwing a little bit too much."
Winning pitcher Barry Zito carried a shutout into the sixth inning before tiring. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run and six hits with one walk and three strikeouts while throwing 81 pitches.
Zito was buried even deeper than Sandoval two years ago, as he was not on the Giants' active roster for any of their three postseason series. However, Zito went 15-8 in the regular season this year, the first time he posted a winning record in six years since signing a seven-year, $126 million contract as a free agent.
"Just going up against Verlander, I was coming out here expecting a game that was going to be 1-0, 2-0," Zito said. "To go up early in the game like that, get first blood, get the momentum was just awesome, man. It was just a pleasure to be a part of it."
After Sandoval gave the Giants a 1-0 lead with his first home run, Pagan led off the third with a two-out double that caromed off third base and into short left field. Pagan scored on Scuatro's line single up the middle, and Sandoval followed with his second home run.
The Giants made it 5-0 in the fourth when Brandon Belt drew a leadoff walk and scored on a two-out single by Zito, a career .097 hitter.
The Tigers scored their first run in the sixth when Austin Jackson doubled and scored on a single by Miguel Cabrera, the AL Triple Crown winner.
The Giants, though, answered with two runs off the beleaguered Valverde in the seventh. Pagan doubled and scored on a single by Scutaro, who was singled home by Posey.
Detroit added two more runs in the top of the ninth when Jhonny Peralta slammed a two-run homer to round out the game's scoring.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. EDT Thursday, with Doug Fister pitching for Detroit against San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner.