Pablo Sandoval and Babe Ruth now have something in common besides their "portly" physique.
The Giants' third baseman on Wednesday night joined the Sultan of Swat, Albert Pujols and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game, when he took Justin Verlander deep twice before golfing an Al Alburquerque pitch over the wall in center to make history.
With those three swings of the bat, Sandoval propelled the Giants to 8-3 win while completely titling the series in San Francisco's favor.
On paper, Detroit was sitting pretty heading into Game 1. Justin Verlander squared off against Barry Zito, who emerged as a postseason starter primarily due to Tim Lincecum's declining velocity and production.
Verlander had one of the worst outings of his career, while Zito scattered six hits over 5.2 innings before Lincecum relieved him and tossed 2.1 scoreless innings. Detroit's deep starting staff now faces the challenge of doing what its ace couldn't—quiet San Francisco's bats, led by Sandoval and Marco Scutaro.
Sandoval, who finished 4-4 with 4 RBI, has helped fuel an unexpected power surge by the Giants during the postseason. San Francisco ranked last in the National League in home runs during the regular season, finishing with nearly 100 fewer homers than the league-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
The emergence of the journeyman Scuataro coupled with Sandoval's brilliance has taken pressure off the Giants' big bats. Both NL MVP favorite Buster Posey and Hunter Pence have struggled in the playoffs, with Posey hitting just .178 in October.
But it is Sandoval, not Posey, who is the ultimate X-factor for the Giants.
The 26-year-old Venezuelan once again fought injuries during the regular season, finishing with a modest 12 homers in 396 at-bats.
When healthy, Sandoval gives the Giants a quick bat and prodigious power. His conditioning has been criticized, but his talent is undeniable.
Jim Leyland and his staff must adjust heading into Game 2.
The Tigers will send Doug Fister to the mound Thursday and likely will tiptoe around Sandoval. Leyland faces a catch-22; pitch to a streaking hitter or set the table for the likely NL MVP. Look for the stubborn skipper to keep challenging Sandoval in hopes of keeping Posey and Pence quiet.
Sandoval's memorable night puts pressure on the Tigers' big bats to deliver. It also just might propel him toward stardom on and off the diamond.
What better spokesmen for In-N-Out Burger than the Panda?
The Giants' third baseman will need to keep the show rolling for San Francisco to outslug powerful Detroit.