SAN FRANCISCO -- Quite simply, Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez had double vision on Wednesday evening at AT&T Park.
His doubles in the first, third and fifth innings -- all against Rangers ace left-hander Cliff Lee -- set the pace for the Giants in an 11-7 victory over the Rangers in Game 1 of the World Series.
At the same time, he became the first player in Major League Baseball history to double in his first three World Series at-bats and the first to pound three doubles in Game 1 of any World Series. He fell one shy of the record for doubles in a single World Series game ... Frank Isbell accomplished that feat in Game 5 of the 1906 Fall Classic. He's also just the sixth second baseman in history to register four hits in Game 1 of the World Series. This came from a guy who wasn't even in uniform until mid-May as he recovered from extensive offseason left shoulder surgery.
"I didn't know [about the record] until someone told me," said Sanchez, who was 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored in the game. "I think it's crazy to have my name up there with all the guys who have played in the World Series and have done [great things]. Obviously, for no one to have done that yet, it's something special. It's also special for just a little guy like me to go out there and be able to do it."
Sanchez joins a short list of unlikely Giants postseason heroes that includes Cody Ross and Juan Uribe. Ross, who had another key RBI single on Wednesday, is hitting .308 with four homers, four doubles and nine RBIs. Uribe, whose three-run, fifth-inning homer broke the game open, also won the National League Championship Series for the Giants with an eighth-inning homer on Saturday night in Game 6 at Philadelphia.
Sanchez, playing in his first postseason, batted .360 in the NLCS against the Phillies, but on Wednesday evening, he trumped that performance.
"Freddy is a great player," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "This guy did win the batting title one year. He can hit, and he can hit good pitching, and he showed that with what he did [against Cliff Lee]. I know he's having fun with this. He hasn't been in this situation before, but he certainly was a catalyst tonight for us. He jump-started us, no getting around that."
Sanchez wasn't even on the Giants' Opening Day roster, let alone considered to be an eventual cog in a championship team. Sanchez had surgery to repair the labrum and the A/C joint and tighten the left shoulder ligament Dec. 23 in San Francisco. Doctors told him he'd be out about six months.
After five months of rehab, he finally was activated on May 19 for a game against the D-backs at Chase Field. A winner of the NL batting title in 2006 when he batted .378 for the Pirates, that first game back was the continuation of a journey along a seemingly endless and winding road. Sanchez continues to battle shoulder problems.
"I didn't even pick up a bat during Spring Training," Sanchez recalled. "I was rehabbing. Really, I wasn't even with the team. I was in the clubhouse all day, and when they broke camp, it was tough. I had to watch it on TV. Obviously anybody who knows me, who's close to me, knows it's been a long road to get to where I am today.
FAST AND FURIOUS
Wednesday's 11-7 win by the Giants over the Rangers equals the second-highest-scoring Game 1 in World Series history.
"I just feel blessed. I thank the man above every day for blessing me and keeping me healthy and strong after coming back from my injuries and still keeping me on the field. It was a tough road, so it definitely does feel good to be where I am right now. I'm still not where I need to be physically, but I'm good enough."
No one in a Giants uniform will argue with that.
On Wednesday, he used both sides of the field. His two doubles to left field drove in runs. The other double was slashed with a broken bat into the right-field corner. An eighth inning single -- which could have been his fourth double of the game save for an error on the play by Vladimir Guerrero -- also went to right.
But there's more: The third-inning double came with the Giants trailing, 2-0, and accounted for their first run. The fifth-inning double was in the midst of a six-run uprising that essentially put the game away.
The fact that they all came against Lee, who lost his first postseason game after seven career victories, was the most incredible part of it. Lee went into the game 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA this postseason.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said that Lee didn't execute against Sanchez and that was the problem.
"We left some pitches in some spots we didn't want," he said. "A couple of those pitches we wanted to get a little deeper in on him, but that guy can hit, man, and when you don't get them where you're supposed to, that's what happens."
Sanchez said beating up on Lee in Game 1 doesn't give the Giants any psychological advantage as the Series moves on.
"Obviously, he's one of the best pitchers in the game and [had] been unhittable in the postseason," he said. "But I don't think there's anything psychological to that. We were able to put the bat on the ball and find some holes. That's really what it boiled down to."
Principally among them was Sanchez, who had double vision.