Sandoval belts pair of bombs as Giants close in on NL West crown

Kelley L Cox/US PRESSWIREGiants third baseman Pablo Sandoval says he’s more confident at the plate of late

It’s safe to say Panda mode is back on at AT&T Park.

Pablo Sandoval hit two home runs Thursday, including one that fueled a six-run fourth inning, as the Giants cruised to a 9-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Sandoval now has three homers in his last two games to lead the team to a four-game sweep of the last-place Rockies and push their magic number to three after the Washington Nationals beat the Dodger 4-1.

Sandoval’s power binge comes after going homerless since July 8, a drought spurred in part by surgery to remove a broken hamate bone earlier in the season.

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“I think it played a part in it, no question,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Also once he hit the one last night, it just seemed to have relaxed him a bit more. And he does realize he doesn’t have to try and hit home runs, he’s strong enough to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”

The two bombs came from both sides of the plate, the first time Sandoval has done that in his career. His last two-homer game was on Sept. 18, 2011, in Colorado.

“I’m confident at home plate, I feel great at home plate,” Sandoval said. “But I don’t try to hit home runs. That’s the thing, when you don’t try, everything is going to end your way.”

The offense was backed by a solid outing by starter Barry Zito, who allowed 10 hits while walking one and striking out six in 5²⁄³ innings, but danced out of trouble to only allow two runs.

“Today was a day where I didn’t have great command of the fastball,” he said. “But the curveball bailed me out. I had pretty good timing and everything like that, mechanics, so usually feeling strong is more about just having fresh legs and having good mechanics.”

Bochy has steadfastly refused to talk about the postseason, despite the shrinking window for the rival Los Angeles Dodgers to rally. The Giants players all say they are just trying to have fun and play hard every day.

Zito, who has won five straight decisions, said the big lead the Giants own in the NL West hasn’t even entered their minds to this point.

“I just know that it seems we’re 9½ up right now, which I just saw,” he said. “But you wouldn’t know it from the vibe here in the clubhouse. We’re fighting every day like we’re one or two up, and it’s something I think really is admirable about this team because we’ve just fought so hard, especially since we lost Melky [Cabrera] and we know we can’t rest on our laurels, we just have to keep going.”

Bochy shows love for Smith, Niners

Giants manager Bruce Bochy wore a 49ers hat during pregame interviews Thursday, a gesture of appreciation for quarterback 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith wore a Giants hat during his postgame interviews last season, and received a letter from the NFL warning him to stop or suffer a $15,000 fine. The NFL’s policy is that players must wear team gear for 90 minutes before and after each game.

Bochy said he doesn’t expect a similar move by MLB.

“I hope not,” he said. “We’re having some fun with this and that’s what it’s about. Sometimes we take things a little too seriously, I think. He comes out here and supports us and we appreciate it, so this is our way of saying thanks.”

Several players have worn the red and gold S.F. hats this week as well, though Bochy said he didn’t expect them to make any appearances during a game.  

Bochy said he has followed the 49ers since coming to the Giants, and that he is interested in getting together with coach Jim Harbaugh once both their schedules clear up.

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