If a poll was taken before Wednesday night’s game one of the 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers asking what would be more surprising: Tigers ace Justin Verlander being chased after just four innings of work allowing five earned runs, six hits and two home runs or Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval tying an MLB record by becoming just the fourth player in history to hit three home runs in a single World Series game, which would it be?
My answer would be a dead even tie because I wouldn’t expect Verlander, the most dominant pitcher this postseason, to get shelled the way he did. Nor would I expect Sandoval, a guy who hit just 12 homers all season to go yards three times in a single game, let alone game one of the World Series. Both actually happened in the Giants 8-3 victory to take the first game and a huge psychological advantage in the series.
Sandoval, nicknamed the Kung-Fu Panda, turned on a Verlander fastball and crushed it 421 feet over the center field wall in the bottom of the first inning to kick things off and give the Giants a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the third inning, NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro got into the action when he singled to center, scoring Angel Pagan, who had doubled off of the bag at third. After the Giants took that 2-0 lead, Sandoval quickly stretched it to 4-0 following his second blast of the game, a two-run job this time to left, scoring himself and Scutaro.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Giants starter Barry Zito (who pitched excellently in earning the win, allowing just one earned run and six hits in 5.2 innings of work while striking out three) helped his own caused by singling to left field and scoring Brandon Belt, which extended the Giants’ lead to 5-0. Zito’s RBI extended the Giants’ postseason record of four consecutive games with a pitcher producing a run batted-in during the playoffs. After Verlander got Pagan to ground out to second, the Tigers ace was done for the evening.
In the bottom of the fifth, with Al Alburquerque now on the hill for Detroit, it was once again Kung-Fu Panda time as Sandoval obliterated an Alburquerque offering over the center field fence 435 feet to place his name in history next to the Sultan of Swat Babe Ruth, Mr. October Reggie Jackson and the Machine Albert Pujols as the only members of the three home run club in a single World Series game.
In the top of the sixth, Miguel Cabrera finally got the Tigers on the scoreboard as he singled to center, scoring Austin Jackson and chasing Zito out of the contest after his solid performance. In the bottom of the seventh, Scutaro again drove in Pagan with a single to left and that was followed by another Sandoval hit to center, but this time it was just a single to give the Panda a 4-4 night. Buster Posey then singled to right and gave San Francisco a 8-1 lead. The Tigers added their two other runs in the top of the ninth when Johnny Peralta homered to center, scoring himself and Delmon Young, bringing to score to its final of 8-3.
Game two of the series begins Thursday night at 8:07 p.m. and will pit the Tigers Doug Fister up against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. This won’t be a must win scenario for the Tigers, but they don’t want to head back to Detroit down 0-2, so they will need to come out and play much better if they hope to even the series at one game apiece.