SAN FRANCISCO — The Babe. Mr. October. El Hombre. And now Kung Fu Panda.
Pablo Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only sluggers to hit three home runs in a World Series game, and the San Francisco Giants rolled over Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 in Wednesday night’s opener.
“I want to know what he ate for breakfast, so maybe we can get it for the rest of our team,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said.
Barry Zito — remember him? — won in his World Series debut, two years after poor performances caused the Giants to drop him from their postseason roster.
Coming off a Game 7 win over St. Louis on Monday night, the Giants looked fresh. Following a sweep of the Yankees and a five-day layoff, Detroit had a Rust Belt relapse reminiscent of its 7-2 loss to St. Louis in the 2006 opener.
“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Sandoval said. “When you’re a little kid, you dream of being in the World Series.”
Detroit tries to even the Series on Thursday night, sending Doug Fister to the mound against Madison Bumgarner. The winner of the opener has claimed the title 66 of 107 times, including eight of last nine. The NL is seeking to win three straight Series for first time since 1979-82.
“I think momentum is your next day’s pitcher,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
A crowd of 42,855 in orange and black made the AT&T Park stands look like a large bowl of Halloween candy.
Sandoval hit a solo home run to right-center on a 95 mph 0-2 fastball at the letters in the first. He reached outside and hit a two-run, opposite-field drive to left in the third on another 95 mph pitch from Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner. Then added another bases-empty shot into the center-field batter’s eye in the fifth, this time on an 84 mph offspeed offering from Al Alburquerque.
Verlander was chased after allowing five runs and six hits in four innings, his shortest start this year, and he dropped to 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in World Series play.
“I just didn’t execute tonight,” Verlander said.
Left off the 2010 postseason roster by the champion Giants, Zito shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the sixth. San Francisco won for the 14th straight time with Zito starting — quite a turnaround from his image as a $126 million bust.
When Giants manager Bruce Bochy tried to call Zito on Tuesday to let him know he was getting the ball, Bochy couldn’t get through. Turns out Zito had left his phone at the ballpark.
“Just the opportunity alone was mind-blowing. Me and my wife were dancing around when I heard,” Zito said.