“You got an up-and-down career,” Sandoval said. “It’s not every year that’s going to be up.”
Sandoval righted himself in 2011, and was a key cog for the Giants during this regular season. As the Giants overcame their three-games-to-one deficit in the NLCS, Sandoval, entrenched as the third-place hitter, made up for a slumping Buster Posey. Wednesday became the sixth straight game in which he drove in at least one run.
The first run came on just the third pitch he saw. With two outs and the bases empty in the first, Verlander started Sandoval with a fastball, then got him to foul off a change-up. Verlander, who hadn’t given up a home run on an 0-2 pitch all season, then unleashed a 95-mph fastball up in the zone.
“He didn’t get it high enough,” Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “Pablo, he’s not afraid to swing the bat. He’ll swing in any count.”
Sandoval clobbered it, just to the right of straightaway center. The first fist pump of the night occurred as he looked into the dugout rounding second. The Giants were on their way.
“The guy can hit,” Bochy said.
In the third, Sandoval got another chance because San Francisco started a rally on Angel Pagan’s two-out bouncer toward third — which hit the base and bounded away for a double. Two batters later, with another run in, Verlander fell behind Sandoval 2-0, warranting a visit from pitching coach Jeff Jones.
The chat did no good. Verlander threw another 95-mph heater, and the switch-hitting Sandoval drove it the opposite way, to left. The two-run shot put the Giants up 4-0. The Tigers, and Verlander, were stunned.
By the time Sandoval came up again, reliever Al Alburquerque was on the mound. He gave up the most majestic blast, another shot to center. Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king, played eight years as a Giant at AT&T Park. He never hit three homers here.
“It’s part of your life you have to enjoy,” Sandoval said. “It’s not every day.”
There are smiles all around San Francisco these days, starting with the Panda, who made them contagious.