And Pablo Sandoval did it Wednesday night. The Giants, a decided underdog, suffocated the Detroit Tigers in an 8-3 victory that was defined by Sandoval’s three swings — a solo shot in the first, a two-run blast in the third, and another solo laser in the fifth. The regular season home run totals of the company Sandoval now keeps: 714 for Ruth, 563 for Jackson, 475 for Pujols. In five years in the majors, Sandoval has 76.
“I don’t try to hit one,” Sandoval said. “I don’t try to hit two. I don’t try to hit three. . . . I’m just happy it was this way.”
Happy for perhaps the most surprising outburst of power in World Series history, an enthralling 4-for-4 performance that included a single in his fourth at-bat. On another night, there would have been other fine story lines from which to choose. San Francisco left-hander Barry Zito was subtly brilliant — 85 mph and barely hittable over 52
3 innings in which he gave up one run. Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, pitching for the first time in eight days, was surprisingly vulnerable.
“He was definitely rusty,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said. “There’s no question about it.”
Sandoval might have chased Verlander himself, but he left that to Zito, whose two-out RBI single in the fourth built the Giants’ lead to 5-0. Verlander, who entered the series 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA this postseason, lasted just four innings, his shortest outing since the first game of the 2011 American League Championship Series against Texas.
But the raucousness at AT&T Park came from Sandoval’s bat. The Giants have won four consecutive postseason games by a combined score of 28-4. But for the first time this October, they have a lead in a series — and they have it because Sandoval unleashed on the Tigers’ previously unassailable ace.
“Going up against Verlander,” Zito said, “I was coming out here expecting a game that was going to be 1-0, or 2-0.”
The reason the Giants have home-field advantage in the World Series is because the National League won the All-Star Game. The central characters in the decisive first inning of that game? Verlander, the AL starter, and Sandoval, who hit a three-run triple off him. It was, before Wednesday, Sandoval’s only at-bat against Verlander.