Baggs' Instant Replay: Pablo powers Giants to Game 1 win

Baggs' Instant Replay: Pablo powers Giants to Game 1 win
October 25, 2012, 3:34 am
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SAN FRANCISCO Did someone hypnotize the Giants into thinking this was an elimination game?Did someone convince them that Justin Verlander was really Cliff Lee with more stubble? Were the Giants compelled to forget that Barry Zito was a decade removed from his AL Cy Young Award, that Miguel Cabrera just won the first triple crown in more than four decades and that the Detroit Tigers were supposed to leave Uniroyal tracks over their backs in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night?And most importantly, where did Pablo Sandoval learn to wink like The Babe?So much happened in the Giants 8-3 victory. None of it was expected.The gutty team known for its finishing kick decided to open the 108th World Series with a Secretariat-like burst from the gate, Sandoval lumbered his way onto one of the shortest and most prestigious lists in baseball history by hitting three home runs -- two against a dazed and amazed Verlander -- and Zito curved and cut his way through a power-hitting lineup.Not only did Sandoval match Albert Pujols, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth (twice) as the only players to homer three times in a World Series game, but it also marked just the second three-homer game in 13 years of baseball at Third and King. Kevin Elster hit three home runs in the very first regular-season game here.RELATED: Sandoval hits three home runs
And if that isnt enough to make you grab the nearest paper bag and start huffing, how about this: Zito even found a way to shank an RBI single on one of Verlanders 97-mph fastballs -- the fourth consecutive game the Giants received an RBI hit from a pitcher.The Giants seized all momentum in this series while almost serving the Tigers a body combination by beating their ace with a pitcher who wasn't even on their postseason roster two years ago. The last eight home teams to win Game 1 have all gone on to win the World Series.Starting pitching reportThe Giants couldnt have asked for more from Zito in his first World Series start.Despite a fastball that started at 84 mph and didnt burn any hotter, Zitomore than matched Verlander, establishing his offspeed pitches early while keeping the Tigers swinging over the top of his curveball to take a shutout into the sixth inning.Zito pitched out of a jam in the first inning, when Omar Infante hit a one-out single and Cabrera drew a walk. But Zito induced a fly out from Prince Fielder and got Delmon Young to ground into a fielders choice.His butterflies all nicely netted, Zito found his rhythm. After an eight-pitch fourth, he was averaging just 12.75 pitches per inning as he sashayed out of the way and let his defense make all the plays behind him.Zito ran his postseason scoreless streak to 13 innings before the Tigers got on the board in the sixth, when Austin Jackson doubled and Cabrera singled him home. Zito needed a fine play from Gregor Blanco for the second out, and after Young singled, manager Bruce Bochy made the slow walk to the mound for the baseball.Zito did what he pledged to do: He stayed aggressive and only walked one batter while striking out three. The 35-year-old left-hander tipped his cap to acknowledge a standing ovation, including the loudest chants of Barry, Barry since No. 756.Bullpen reportTell me if you saw this coming in spring training: Lincecum rushing out of the bullpen, his long hair bouncing with each stride, to take over for Barry Zito in Game 1 of the World Series.Lincecum took the mound to the remnants of Zitos standing ovation and went fastball-slider-change-change to strike out Jhonny Peralta and strand both inherited runners.Lincecum claims to be equally comfortable starting or relieving, but the eyes do not lie. He retired all seven hitters he faced, striking out five, and his 92-mph fastball appeared to have extra late life.George Kontos allowed a two-run home run in the ninth to Jhonny Peralta that nicked off Angel Pagans glove in center field, hit the top of the wall, bounced over -- and might have caused Ian Kinsler to shed a tear.Jeremy Affeldt finished it off to run his scoreless streak to nine appearances this postseason.The Giants improved to 7-0 this postseason when leading after five innings.At the plateVerlander was supposed to be impenetrable. He entered 3-0 with an 0.74 ERA this postseason, bouncing the irrepressible As in the AL Division Series before making the New York Yankees look like the Columbus Clippers.But Sandovals three-run triple off Verlander in the All-Star Game was more than mere exhibition.Verlander made a mistake on an 0-2 fastball in the first inning and Sandoval jumped on it, using the supplied power to generate backspin as the ball slipped over the center field fence to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.It was the first home run hit by a Giant in the first inning of a World Series game since Mel Ott in 1933. (Ott hit his off a Washington Senators pitcher named Lefty Stewart, who oddly enough, batted right-handed.) And it also was just the fifth home run Verlander had ever given up on an 0-2 pitch in his major league career.By the time Sandoval batted again in the third, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro had broken in Verlander with a pair of tough, eight-pitch at-bats. Pagan fouled off five pitches, including three with two strikes, before spanking a grounder down the third base line that doinked off the base and trickled into left field for a double.Scutaro followed by fouling off three pitches, including two 98-mph fastballs with two strikes, before getting a slider and sending a crackling line drive up the middle.Pagan scored to make it 2-0, and Verlander chuckled as Detroit pitching coach Jeff Jones walked to the mound, appearing to say, What are you doing out here?Perhaps Jones was reminding Verlander that Sandoval swings at just about everything, since the right-hander threw him two changeups in the dirt. But Sandoval watched both of them go by, then he got the barrel to a 95-mph fastball on the outer edge of the zone. The ball carried the opposite way and into the left field bleachers. Verlander could only say, Wow as he whirled around in amazement.The two-run shot gave the Giants a 4-0 lead, and Sandoval wasnt done. Amazingly, neither was Zito. The pitcher who just tries to massage the ball out there, man did much more than that in the fourth after Brandon Belt drew a leadoff walk and advanced on a ground out. Zitos single gave the Giants pitching staff four RBIs in four games -- two more than their opponents have totaled over that span.It was also just the fourth time Verlander has given up a hit to an opposing pitcher, and the first time since 2007.Verlander barely made it through the fourth inning. The Giants harassed him into throwing 98 pitches to get just 12 outs while collecting five runs on six hits and a walk against him.It was reminiscent of the battering the Giants gave the Texas Rangers Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the 2010 World Series. Lee entered that game with a 3-0 record a 0.75 ERA and 34 strikeouts with just one walk in 24 innings that postseason.Sandoval turned a great game into an all-timer in the fifth, when he picked out a slider from Al Albuquerque and pelted it over the left field fence. He raised a fist as he rounded the bases, and just as Reggie did 35 years ago, he raised his helmet while receiving a curtain call.Sandoval joined Barry Bonds (eight) and Rich Aurilia (six), both in 2002, as the only Giants to hit six home runs in a postseason. Jeff Kent (in 2002) and Benny Kauff (in 1917) were the only other Giants to hit two homers in a World Series game.Finally, Sandoval extended his streak to six consecutive postseason games with an RBI -- a franchise record and two away from matching the major league mark held by Lou Gehrig, Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez.The Giants scored two more in the eighth against struggling former closer Jose Valverde, and once again, their top three hitters did the damage. Pagan doubled, Scutaro singled and Sandoval followed with an RBI single to complete a 4-for-4 night with three runs scored and four RBIs. Even Buster Posey chipped in one of his signature singles to right field -- and if he starts getting locked in, the Tigers are really in deep.Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval combined to score seven of the teams eight runs and drive in six of them.Sandovals 13 total bases stands alone as the second most in a World Series game, behind Albert Pujols 14 total bases during his three-homer, one-double game for the Cardinals last year.In fieldHas a Giants outfielder ever made a bigger defensive impact in one season than Gregor Blanco?The man who saved Matt Cains perfect game in June came up with two more diving plays in his first World Series game. Blanco got a good jump and slid on his belly while catching Miguel Cabreras line drive to strand a baserunner in the third inning.Blanco did it again in the sixth, leaving his feet on a similar play to catch Pricne Fielders sinking line drive just an inch or two above the grass. The catch stemmed what had been the Tigers only scoring rally of the game.Posey kept up his solid defensive postseason while starting a heads-up double play in the fourth. Delmon Young kept both feet in the batters box when he hit a tapper off the plate, but Posey leapt from his crouch, snagged the ball in fair territory, deftly brushed Young on the backside and then fired a strike to second base where Scutaro applied the tag to Fielder.AttendanceThe Giants announced 42,855 paid. Dear God, tell me none of them were able to wander into the Dugout Store and buy Sandovals bat.Up nextThe Giants and Tigers meet in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday at AT&T Park. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts) returns to the rotation against Merced native and right-hander Doug Fister (0-0, 1.35 ERA in two postseason starts). First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. PDT.

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