SAN FRANCISCO — By the time San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval got hold of his phone Wednesday night, he had 300 text messages. He received a tweet from Hugo Chavez, the president of his native Venezuela, during his fourth at-bat of the first game of the World Series.
“He was like, ‘I’m just going to say congratulations to Pablo, but I’m just going to see the fourth homer right now,’ ” Sandoval said Thursday.
Sandoval’s record-tying, three-homer game Wednesday was still the talk of baseball prior to Game 2 on Thursday. There were several remarkable aspects to it, not the least of which was that a man who hit just 12 homers during the season pulled it off.
Sandoval said he spent much of the season building strength in his left hand, on which he had surgery in May to repair a broken hamate bone. That came a year after he broke the same bone in his right hand.
“I lost strength,” Sandoval said. “I lost muscle in my hand. I just tried to keep focus. The World Series started. Don’t lose the faith. I know that the strength is going to come back, so it came back at the right time.”
That was true even before Game 1. Sandoval now has six homers in his last 11 games, all in the postseason. He went 1 for 3 with an intentional walk in the Giants’ 2-0 victory in Game 2.
The other aspect that lingered into Game 2: the pitches Sandoval hit. The first was a high fastball from Detroit’s Justin Verlander. The second was a fastball on the outside part of the plate that Sandoval drove the opposite way. The last was a slider that Sandoval picked off the top of his shoes.
“I think what you’re seeing is a guy with incredible talent,” Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. “. . . Occasionally, you get great athletes who get in a zone, and it really slows the game down. I’m sure [Wednesday] night, Pablo just saw the ball so well, and it really slowed down for him.”
Jose Valverde continues to be an issue for the Tigers. After another miserable outing in Game 1 — one-third of an inning in which he gave up two runs on four consecutive hits before being relieved — Detroit Manager Jim Leyland said he doesn’t see anything physically wrong with Valverde, who entered the postseason as the Tigers’ closer.
“Some people say he’s not throwing the split enough,” Leyland said. “Some people have all kind of answers as to what’s been wrong. But from what I see, he was 92-93 [mph] last night, with a couple 94s, I believe. So I think it’s just a matter of locating his fastball and keeping it out of the middle of the plate.” . . .
Barry Zito’s run-scoring single in Game 1 gave Giants pitchers an RBI in four games in a row. “It’s been huge,” Bochy said. “ . . . They’re part of the offense, too. That’s why we, like a lot of clubs, spend a lot of time. They take batting practice every day. They bunt every day.”