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Giants get big lift from Panda in eventful sixth

Giants get big lift from Panda in eventful sixth

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval had been waiting all postseason for an opportunity to pump up the Giants' offense and the team's fans, and for a moment there it looked like he'd missed out by the narrowest of margins.

But four pitches after a ball he ripped down the right-field line was called foul by umpire Ted Barrett, with replays showing the ball possibly touching the foul line, Sandoval got his wish with a double to the left-center gap that couldn't be disputed in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday.

Sandoval's two-run double put the Giants ahead in a tight battle at AT&T Park, and when the third baseman known as the Kung Fu Panda reached second base, he flapped his arms in unison with the capacity crowd's din.

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"It's what you dream of, when I was a little kid in the backyard," said Sandoval, who entered the game with just a single in six at-bats during the postseason. "Come through, being in the postseason, helping my team [with] a double, two RBIs, it's one of those dreams when you're a little kid, and you're thinking, 'My dream's come true. I'm here in the postseason.'


"Last year I was at home [in Venezuela] on the beach. But right now I got the opportunity to be here. No matter what the situation, I just try to be here to help my team and support my team, every day."

With Sandoval's help, the Giants moved to within a win of the World Series after a thrilling 6-5 victory over the Phillies, setting up a potential clinching Game 5 on Thursday. Whether Sandoval is back in the lineup remains to be seen, but now he can say he has done his part in the postseason.

For most of October, his contribution has been from the dugout, or in the clubhouse. He started 146 of the team's 162 regular-season games, but was benched three games into the Division Series, first in favor of veteran utility man Mike Fontenot and then with manager Bruce Bochy going with the veteran tandem of Edgar Renteria at short and Juan Uribe at third.

With Uribe's wrist sore enough to keep him out of the lineup -- but not sore enough to keep him from delivering the game-winning sacrifice fly as well as a sparkling play at shortstop -- it was Sandoval's time to shine in October. And when he delivered, Uribe was among those happy to see it happen.

"I know, like everybody knows, Pablo can hit," Uribe said. "He's a good player, too. I was excited for him to get a double today, but I know he can do it. I know he's going to be able to do it."

Said first baseman Aubrey Huff, who had three hits of his own: "You've got to love what Pablo did tonight. He seemed to have a double down the line and ends up getting a double anyway. With the struggles he's been through this year, you love see him get a big hit like that."

Going from a near-miss to a huge hit that helped the Giants in their latest biggest game of the year took some doing, and some breathing, for the 23-year-old whose season has been a challenge. It was an exciting sequence.

"Especially when you hit two doubles, just kidding," Sandoval said.

With runners on second and third and facing right-handed reliever Chad Durbin, Sandoval turned on the first pitch he saw in his most important at-bat of the postseason. Sandoval put a sinking liner on the ground right at umpire Barrett's feet, and as Barrett moved out of the way, he threw his hands in the air and called the ball foul.

Bochy ran out to discuss the call, and appeared to ask first-base umpire Jeff Nelson if he could help Barrett with the call -- but went back to the dugout with the foul ball intact.

"When I came back, [Bochy] was talking to the umpire, I just calmed down myself," Sandoval said. "Count to 10. Breathe. Get a pitch you can hit a fly ball [on] or try to hit to the middle. Don't try to do too much. That's what we need to do, try to tie the game. That's what I do and then try to concentrate to hit the ball to the middle."

In what Bochy called a "great at-bat," Durbin then threw a ball in the dirt that Sandoval, as he has been known to do especially this year, swung at, setting up an 0-2 count. After letting the next breaking ball in the dirt go, Sandoval fouled off a fastball before delivering another fastball into the outfield for the two-run base hit.

Sandoval delivered when the Giants needed him most, which is exactly what he and anyone else wearing orange and black has been waiting to see for quite some time now.

"I thought he had some good at-bats tonight, which was good for his confidence," Bochy said. "I mean, this guy can hit. And he can certainly help us."

Said closer Brian Wilson: "I still think he's the player he is when he first came up: 20-some home runs, batting over .300, he's still got that in him. You can't count him out, especially on high heaters. He's going to get to them, and he found a way to stay within himself and come up huge.

"That's what we asked him to do today, and he did it."

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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