From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Pablo Sandoval not only has baseball's neatest nickname, Kung Fu Panda has a World Series MVP award to go along with it.Sandoval took home the trophy following the San Francisco Giants' sweep of Detroit, hitting .500 with three home runs, a double and four RBIs in 16 Series at-bats."I was ready for the moment," he said after a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Sunday night. "It's just an incredible moment you're never going to forget."This Panda works with maple, not bamboo.Sandoval got the Giants off to a powerful start by hitting three homers in the opener against the Tigers, becoming the fourth player to accomplish that feat in a World Series game.He made his big league debut on Aug. 14, 2008, and earned his nickname just a month later. That Sept. 19 at Dodger Stadium, Sandoval scored from second on Bengie Molina's first-inning single off Greg Maddux, leaping sideways to avoid catcher Danny Ardoin's lunging tag on the throw from center fielder Matt Kemp.Maddux and Dodgers manager Joe Torre argued Sandoval ran out of the baseline. Barry Zito, on the mound for the Giants that night, coined the nickname for Sandoval's oversized personality and roly-poly shape -- the animated film "Kung Fu Panda" had been released in theaters that June."The Panda has special powers," Zito said in the middle of champagne spray in the Giants' crowded clubhouse. "I watched that movie and thought, he's a guy that if you see him, you may not think he's so athletic, and then all of sudden, you're like, wow! This guy is one of the better players in baseball."And the jovial Sandoval loved the moniker."It's me. The character is me," he said. "Have fun, like a little kid, fight for everything, never lose faith. It's important when you have teammates thinking that way, you are that guy."While Sandoval hit .330 in 2009 and finished second to Hanley Ramirez in the NL batting race, the Giants launched "Operation Panda" that offseason, telling him to ditch the Big Macs, fries and milkshakes in favor of chicken breast on wheat bread, watermelon slices, bananas and oranges. He started lifting.Sandoval's weight is listed at 240 on the Giants' website, 235 on the players' site. At one point, he had been up to at least 272."I just want to keep that a secret," he said three years ago, trying to avoid an exact number.By the time the 2010 World Series rolled around, when the Giants won their first title in 56 years, Sandoval was benched for four of five games following a slump. His weight had gone up again, and his batting average had gone down to .268. He made 13 errors and grounded into a league-high 26 double plays."I know it was a tough time in 2010 when he got relegated to the bench there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He really wanted to, I think, shine on stage. He's a great talent and we got him hot at the right time."Sandoval hit .369 this postseason with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs. Quite a turnaround from his .176 average with two RBIs two years ago.He has come a long way since then. He hired a personal chef. He ran up desert hills in Arizona during the offseason, causing him to throw up regularly. Sandoval's average rebounded to .315, and he made his first All-Star team. Then at this summer's showcase in Kansas City, he hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history, a drive off Justin Verlander in a five-run first inning that helped secure home-field advantage for the NL in the World Series.After Sandoval went deep three times in the opener, matching the Series record shared by Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols, the Giants sold 760 more of their furry panda hats, including 466 at AT&T Park during Game 2. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez tweeted, "Pablo going down in history! Long live Venezuela!!""I still can't believe that game. It's the game of your dreams," Sandoval said. "You don't want to wake up."
Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series opener in Chicago:
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
7. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Ty Blach (R) P (1-2, 4.15 ERA)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) LF
2. Albert Almora Jr. (R) CF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Willson Contreras (R) C
6. Addison Russell (R) SS
7. Jason Heyward (L) RF
8. Javier Baez (R) 2B
9. John Lackey (R) P (4-3, 4.37 ERA)
SAN ANTONIO -- The Specter of 73 haunts the Warrior still and you can feel it in their dismissive, yes-but responses to being on the brink of yet another entry into the NBA record book.
Though they do not believe their pursuit and achievement last season of an NBA-record 73 wins sabotaged their chances for a championship, it is evident the Warriors came away with diminished appreciation of gaudy numbers.
They can add to their list of shiny accomplishments Monday night. A victory over the Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals would make the Warriors the first team ever to open the playoffs with three four-game sweeps and a 12-0 record.
“My wife asked me this morning: What if you guys win and you’re 12-0?” general manager Bob Myers told NBCBayAreaSports.com Monday afternoon. “Well, for me, the record thing kind of got screwed up last year.”
Yes, the record thing. The Warriors chased 73 and got 73 and yet they’ll be known just as much, if not more, as the first team to blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
“It’s all about 16,” Stephen Curry told NBCSportsBayArea.com.
Getting to 16 wins in the postseason means getting to the top. Winning it all. The very thing the Warriors did not accomplish a year ago.
They are one win away from being three-quarters of the way there.
“Going 12-0 sounds great,” Curry said. “But it probably would have happened if the Lakers would have played a seven-game series to start the run through the playoffs.”
The Lakers twice swept their first three postseason series -- in 1989 and 2001 -- but in both instances the first round was best-of-five. Both streaks ended at 11 in a row.
The Warriors seem to view numbers as decoration, ancillary components to the primary. They may have felt that way all along, but going through what they did last season, losing The Finals to the Cavaliers, provided an acute sense of context.
“It’s unfortunate that we put so much into the last game of the season, or winning the whole thing because there are a lot of things that we, as an organization, should be proud of no matter what happens,” Myers said. “But it’s hard, knowing where were last year, to see that regular-season record and then not win the championship. It’s a mixed feeling.
“So when you talk about records and numbers and things like that, and you know what it’s like to win a championship and you know what it’s like to lose, it’s hard to put them in proper perspective.”
The Warriors have made it clear they are less than impressed with their average victory margin of 16.5 points through the first 11 games in these playoffs. The record is 14.5, set by the Bucks in 1971.
They’re not buying into the hype generated by leading all playoff teams in points per game (117.4) and field-goal percentage (49.7) and field-goal percentage defense (41.6).
Numbers. Just numbers. Like, for example, 73.
“To know that we have a great regular-season record and a tiny little banner in our practice facility, “ Myers said, “it doesn’t feel like it should.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say it doesn’t mean anything. But it’s hard to really understand what it means right now. And knowing that we’ve been in the midst of all these numbers and records and road-win records and things like that, you get lost in it in good and bad ways. It’s fantastic, but also what does it mean? Because what we’re really trying to do is win a championship.”
Which, of course, comes back to numbers.
“You can learn lessons in winning and you can learn lessons in losing,” Curry said. “It’s just a matter of how you respond from game to game. But 12-0 would be irrelevant come next series.”