SAN FRANCISCO -- With three mighty swings, Pablo Sandoval put the San Francisco Giants ahead in this World Series and put himself in a class with Mr. October.
Sandoval smacked three home runs and joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only sluggers to do it in the Series, and the Giants jolted Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Wednesday night in Game 1.
A rollicking AT&T Park crowd -- a sea of black and orange outfits -- roared as Sandoval connected in his first three at-bats. Popular in the Bay Area as the Kung Fu Panda for his roly-poly shape, he went 4 for 4 and drove in four runs.
From start to finish, it was basically a perfect game by the Giants. Coming off a Game 7 NLCS win over St. Louis on Monday night, they looked totally fresh.
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"We played our last game only two days ago," Sandoval said. "We're still hot. We just came here and played our game."
Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner so dominant in this postseason (3-0, 0.74 ERA in three starts), looked uncomfortable from the start and constantly pawed at the mound.
As fans filed out singing along with Tony Bennett's standard I Left My Heart in San Francisco, the final score raised a nagging question for manager Jim Leyland and his favored Tigers: Did too much rest after an ALCS sweep of the New York Yankees mean too much rust?
Tagged by Sandoval for a solo shot in the first inning, Verlander could only mouth 'Wow!' when the Giants star launched a two-run drive in the third that set off another blast of fog horns. Sandoval reprised his power show from this year's All-Star Game, when his bases-loaded triple highlighted a five-run first inning against Verlander and swung homefield advantage in the Series to the NL team.
If there was any doubt that Verlander was shaky, the best sign came in the fourth. That's when pitcher Barry Zito, a career .099 hitter, sliced an RBI single with two outs off the 2011 AL MVP for a 5-0 lead.
The festive crowd stood and applauded when it was announced that Verlander was being pulled for a pinch hitter in the fifth. Sandoval gave them another reason to get up moments later when he hit a solo homer off reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth, answering the cheers by waving his batting helmet in a curtain call.
"I'm one that's been around long enough to know that a lot of things happen in this game. This was a big-hyped game with Justin, probably a lot of pressure on him," Leyland said.
"But I don't think it had anything to do with the pressure. His fastball command was not good. He got out of sync. He got on fast forward. He just did not pitch well tonight. It's that simple," he said.
Pujols homered three times last year, Jackson accomplished the feat in 1977 and Ruth did it in 1926 and again in 1928.
For good measure, Sandoval lined a single his last time up. He donated the bat he used for the first two homers to the Hall of Fame -- no need for it anymore; he broke on the backswing of his second shot.
Marco Scutaro, MVP of the NL Championship Series, hit RBI singles after doubles by Angel Pagan. NL batting champion Buster Posey contributed two hits and left fielder Gregor Blanco made diving catches to rob Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Game 2 is tonight, with Doug Fister starting for the Tigers against Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner.