Photo: Pablo 'Kung Fu Panda' Sandoval Hits 3 Homeruns
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval tied a World Series record with three home runs and Barry Zito outpitched Justin Verlander to lead the San Francisco Giants to an 8-3 win here over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series.
Sandoval, affectionately known as “Kung Fu Panda,” belted a solo homer to center field in the first inning and a two-run shot to left field in the bottom of the third in Wednesday night’s game to stun Verlander, who exited after four innings and had his first poor outing of the 2012 postseason.
He later drove a pitch by reliever Al Alburquerque over the wall in center field in the bottom of the fifth.
His historic performance made him just the fourth player in baseball history to hit three home runs in a World Series game, joining Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson and three-time MVP Albert Pujols.
The 26-year-old native of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, also was the first player since Ruth in 1926 to have a chance to hit a fourth home run in a World Series game when he came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Although Sandoval didn’t knock a pitch out of the park, he ripped a single up the middle to finish the night a perfect 4 for 4.
“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Sandoval said afterward.
“We played our last game only two days ago. We’re still hot. We just came here and played our game,” he said, referring to the Giants’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
Immediately before Sandoval’s second home run, second baseman Marco Scutaro singled in center fielder Angel Pagan to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
Zito even contributed to the offensive onslaught against Verlander, singling home first baseman Brandon Belt in the fourth inning, the last for the Tigers’ ace.
Scutaro singled in Pagan again in the seventh off Tigers reliever Jose Valverde and after Sandoval’s single star catcher Buster Posey singled Scutaro home for the Giants’ final run.
Zito, a former Cy Young Award winner who has struggled since his arrival in San Francisco in 2007 to live up his seven-year, $126 million contract, turned back the clock for the second-straight game, pitching into the sixth inning and giving up just one run.
The night was also one of redemption for Sandoval, who was benched for most of the 2010 World Series, in which the Giants defeated the Texas Rangers.
The Tigers’ only runs came in the sixth inning, when star third baseman Miguel Cabrera knocked in center fielder Austin Jackson, and in the ninth, when shortstop Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run home run off Giants’ reliever George Kontos.
The American League champs will try to even the series Thursday night when Doug Fister takes the mound against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner in Game 2.