Sandoval afforded no time for reflection

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Sandoval afforded no time for reflection

SAN FRANCISCO -- Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols. Pablo Sandoval. It's one of baseball's most elite groups -- the offensive juggernauts who flexed their muscles under the brightest spotlight.

Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series etched his name in stone, but the big third baseman barely had time to read the 300-some text messages he received, let alone process the magnitude of his accomplishment. After all, he had homework to prepare for Doug Fister and Game 2, less than 24 hours later.

"You have to realize what's going on right now in your life," Sandoval said hours before Game 2. "So you have to keep your head up and keep focused."

The performance that earned him a tweet from Hugo Chvez, the President of his native Venezuela, will go down as one of the single greatest offensive games in World Series history.

The first player ever to hit three home runs in Game 1 of any postseason series. The first player to homer in his first three at-bats of a World Series Game. The second most total bases recorded in a World Series game. The list goes on, but so does the series, and Sandoval and his teammates have to be ready for Game 2.

RELATED: Sandoval writes name among World Series legends

Having a player of Sandoval's caliber dialed in at the plate in late October is an asset that can't be understated.

"Occasionally you get great athletes who get in a zone, and it really slows the game down," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'm sure last night Pablo just saw the ball so well and it really slowed down for him. It's a credit to his talent. It's fun to watch great athletes when they get in the zone, especially when they're playing for you."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't have that luxury, but he appreciated what he witnessed nonetheless.

"You can't sit up here and say what he did tonight was a fluke," Leyland said. "I mean, it was unbelievable. The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talking about for years.So I tip my hat to him."

Plenty of others tipped their virtual hats to Sandoval. The face of the division-rival Dodgers, Matt Kemp, joined Chavez on Twitter to express his wonder.

Wow! That's all I can say. panda Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) October 25, 2012
All va el tercero, pues! Pablo pa' la Historia! Viva Venezuela!! Hugo Chvez Fras (@chavezcandanga) October 25, 2012
Sandoval is doing his best to take it all in.

"For me," the five-year veteran said, "it was exciting to see Matt Kemp -- he played with LA -- he sent me a tweet saying that. That means a lot me.

"There's a lot of things you have to realize in your career, you have to pay attention to all that. When your friends do good things, you want to support them."

Sandoval's immediate focus, though, is supporting his teammates in the World Series.

He already has half as many home runs this postseason (six) as he did during the regular season (12). And Sandoval just set the Giants franchise record with a six-game postseason RBI streak -- a record previously held by Barry Bonds. Over those six games, Sandoval is 12-for-25 (.480) with two doubles and five home runs and 10 total RBIs.

The Giants have scored 61 runs in 13 games these playoffs, and they've done in just about every way possible. But the key behind their 4.69 runs-per-playoff-game average (up from their 4.43 regular season average) has been striking first. The Giants are 7-1 when they score first this postseason, and a locked-in Sandoval would aid the early production quite a bit.

With success comes heightened levels of celebrity. But don't expect Sandoval to disguise himself, especially when he returns to Venezuela.

"I'm the kind of guy that spends time with fans out there, spend time with kids," Sandoval said. "That's what makes me happy out there."

What makes him happy right here in San Francisco, though, is playing baseball, and playing baseball well. Whether or not he's processed what he achieved, he'll be back in the batter's box at AT&T Park in Game 2.

Amidst a brighter media spotlight than he's ever been exposed to, Sandoval is doing his best to keep his mind in the right place.

"You have to keep focused and keep playing and keep working hard," Sandoval said.

There will be plenty of time in November for reflection -- and responding to text messages.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.

 

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.