DETROIT -- Asked early Monday morning about the existence of momentum in baseball and if Pablo Sandoval provided his Giants teammates with it in Game 1 of the World Series, Will Clark had a simple answer.
The 1989 National League championship series MVP and current special assistant to the Giants said Sandoval gave the club three jolts of confidence earlier in the week when he blasted three home runs in the opener of the Fall Classic, including two off Justin Verlander.
Sandoval was named the 2012 World Series MVP after the Giants closed out a series sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 4-3 win in 10 innings at Comerica Park late Sunday night. The man affectionately known by his teammates as Panda became the first Venezuelan-born World Series MVP after he hit .500 in the Series in 16 at-bats with a double, three homers and four RBIs.
You bet your ass there is (momentum), Clark said. He definitely got us off to a whale of a start in the World Series against probably one of the best pitchers in the big leagues. To be MVP, he deserves every bit of it. Thats a big momentum switch.
Much of the talk ahead of the 108th Fall Classic surrounded Detroits starting rotation, which was headed by Verlander, the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young winner. While the Giants required six straight wins in elimination games to reach the World Series, the Tigers breezed to an AL pennant behind their pitching.
But Giants players said any internal doubts about they may have had about their chances were erased when Sandoval launched a 0-2, 95-mph, letter-high fastball from Verlander into the stands in center field in the first inning of Game 1.
Its something we needed for sure, reliever Javier Lopez said. Obviously, Verlanders one tremendous pitcher. To be able to go out there and know were facing a guy throwing 95-plus and the stuff that he has, and the outings he had (against) the Oakland As and the Yankees. We knew we were going to have a tough test and that was awesome. (Sandoval) stepped up not just then but all series long for us.
Sandovals average was the ninth highest in World Series history for players who had a minimum of 15 at-bats. The Giants third baseman went 1-for-5 in Sundays victory and had a hit in all four games.
Less than five days after his Game 1 heroics, Sandoval said hes still in shock of how the Series opener transpired.
I still cant believe that game, Sandoval said. Its the game of your dreams. You dont want to wake up. You do a lot of things to win that game because (hes) one of the best pitchers in the league, you want to try and face him and try and win the game.
Wednesdays encounter wasnt the first between Sandoval and Verlander. In July, Sandoval hit a three-run triple off Verlander in the All-Star Game at Kansas City as the NL rolled to an 8-0 victory over the AL. Teammate Angel Pagan said Sandoval proved the at-bat wasnt a fluke in Game 1 and the rest of the World Series.
People was wondering (if) what happened in the All-Star Game was real and (Sandoval) showed that it was real, Pagan said. Hes a very tough competitor. Hes a very tough hitter. Ive said it before many times -- whenever hes hot sometimes he can be too hot. He showed it right there.
Dan Hayes is the White Sox Insider for CSNChicago.com