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 hit 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 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. A Giant panda for sure.
Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner so dominant in this postseason, looked uncomfortable from the get-go and constantly pawed at the mound.
The final score raised a nagging question for manager Jim Leyland and his favored Tigers: Did too much rest after a playoff sweep of the Yankees mean too much rust?
Tagged by Sandoval for a solo shot in the first inning, Verlander could only mouth 'Wow!' after the Giants star launched a two-run drive in the third. 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 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 current AL MVP for a 6-0 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.
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.
From start to finish, it was basically a perfect game by the Giants. Coming off a Game 7 win over St. Louis on Monday night, they looked totally fresh.
Zito shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI single in the sixth, and Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to prevent further damage.
NL championship series MVP Marco Scutaro 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 Thursday night, with Doug Fister starting for the Tigers against Madison Bumgarner.