SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pablo Sandoval became just the fourth player to hit three home runs in a World Series game, connecting twice against Justin Verlander and once off Al Alburquerque to lead the San Francisco Giants over the Detroit Tigers 8-3 in Wednesday night's opener.
Sandoval hit a solo home run to right-center in the first, a two-run, opposite-field drive to left in the third and another bases-empty shot into the center-field batter's eye in the fifth. He joined Babe Ruth (1926 and 1928), Reggie Jackson (1977) and Albert Pujols (2011) as the only players with three-homer games in the Series.
Barry Zito, who like Sandoval watched the 2010 Series opener from the dugout, won by allowing one run and six hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Sandoval went 4 for 4 with four RBIs, also singling in the seventh against Jose Valverde. He became the first Giants player with a three-homer game at home since Barry Bonds in August 1994 at Candlestick Park.
Verlander was chased after allowing five runs and six hits in four innings, his shortest start this year. He threw 98 pitches, and Detroit manager Jim Leyland could alter his rotation and start him in Game 4 on short rest instead of Max Scherzer. That would enable Verlander to pitch a possible Game 7, again on three days' rest.
Verlander was 0-2 as a rookie in the 2006 Series against St. Louis but had been superb this October, entering with a 3-0 record and a 0.74 ERA.
Madison Bumgarner, 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA for the Giants in two postseason outings, starts Game 2 on Thursday against Detroit's Doug Fister, who has a 1.35 ERA with no decisions in two postseason appearances this year. The Series then shifts to the Motor City for Game 3 on Saturday.
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.
Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star game history off Verlander in July, and kept on going against the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
He connected on a high 95 mph pitch with an 0-2 count in the first inning and sent the ball just over the wall in right-center. Then, on the very next pitch after a mound visit by Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones in the third, Sandoval hit a two-run, opposite-field drive into the seats in left for a 4-0 lead. Verlander simply said, "Wow!"
Sandoval had been benched for four of five games in the Giants' 2010 Series win over Texas when he entered in a 3-for-14 slide. The Giants then told Sandoval, nicknamed Kung Fu Panda for his roly-poly physique, to get in shape or start the next season in the minor leagues.