For Giants, Game 1 success starts at the top

For Giants, Game 1 success starts at the top

For Giants, Game 1 success starts at the top
SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval was the headline attraction with home runs in his first three at-bats, equaling a World Series record shared by three legendary figures. But it was the entire top third of the Giants' order that battered Justin Verlander and the Tigers around in an 8-3 Game 1 victory at AT&T Park on Wednesday night.

World Series

The trio combined for eight hits -- matching the entire Detroit lineup -- and delivered seven runs scored and six RBIs, four of those coming on Sandoval home runs.

Leadoff man Angel Pagan doubled twice, scoring a pair of runs, in four at-bats. Marco Scutaro, the National League Championship Series MVP, singled twice, driving in two runs and scoring twice. And Sandoval was one bear of a Panda.

Panda express
Pablo Sandoval is just the fourth player to hit three homers in any World Series game.
Player Date Gm. Team Opp. HR
Pablo Sandoval 10/24/2012 1 S.F. Det. 3
Albert Pujols 10/22/2011 3 Stl. Tex. 3
Reggie Jackson 10/18/1977 6 NYY L.A. 3
Babe Ruth 10/9/1928 4 NYY Stl. 3
Babe Ruth 10/6/1926 4 NYY Stl. 3

The good-humor man lashed a line-drive single in his fourth plate appearance after homering twice off Verlander and once off reliever Al Alburquerque to join an exclusive club. Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols were the only three men before Sandoval to go deep three times in a Fall Classic game, Ruth doing it twice.

"Put those three guys at the top," cleanup man Buster Posey said, having produced a pair of hits and an RBI, "and good things will happen."

Sandoval's homer to center on an 0-2 Verlander fastball jump-started the offense in the first inning. The 2011 American League MVP, Verlander had retired six in a row when Pagan stroked a double off the bag at third with two away in the third. It bounded away from Miguel Cabrera, and Pagan cruised into second.

"I was just trying to hustle to first base and create a rally," Pagan said. "When I saw it get away from Miguel, I got to second base. We'll take it any way we can get it."

Ending an eight-pitch duel, Scutaro lined an RBI single to center.

"I got two strikes and just battled," Scutaro said, having fouled off two heaters before slamming a breaking ball into center. "He's a power pitcher, but he also knows how to pitch. Fortunately, I made good contact."

This brought Sandoval to the plate, and he unloaded a 2-0 fastball the other way, into the left-field seats, to the visible amazement of Verlander.

After Barry Zito got into the act with an RBI single in the fourth, Verlander departed. Sandoval and Co. kept hammering away, Pablo going deep in the fifth and contributing a single during a two-run seventh featuring Pagan's double and Scutaro's second run-scoring single.

"Scutaro had a big at-bat in that game, too," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said as the postgame conversation focused on Sandoval's epic night. "Pagan and Scutaro, they did a good job of getting on base, and Pablo just had a huge night for us."

Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval have comprised a winning trifecta for the Giants since they were linked at the top of the order in August. They were instrumental as a trio in a three-game sweep of the Dodgers that lifted the Giants back into the National League West lead on Aug. 20, where they remained for the balance of the season.

"That was a big series for us," Bochy said. "We were dealing with the [Melky] Cabrera situation, and to come in and sweep the Dodgers like that in Dodger Stadium -- that was huge."

The 50-game suspension of Cabrera could have had a demoralizing impact, but the consistently superb play of Scutaro -- obtained on July 27 in a swap with the Rockies -- canceled out the absence of the All-Star Game MVP, Cabrera.

In those three games against the Dodgers, Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval combined to go 16-for-34 in the series, scoring 10 runs and driving home five. Pagan was 7-for-13, Scutaro 6-for-13 and Sandoval 3-for-8.

Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' Game 2 World Series starter, outdueled Clayton Kershaw in a 2-1 decision in the first game. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain took the measure of Joe Blanton and Chris Capuano in the next two games, turning all the division momentum in the Giants' favor.

Leaving Los Angeles, the Giants had a 2 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers and a 69-55 record. They went 25-13 the rest of the way, winning the division by eight games.

"Pagan moving back to leadoff has been big," Posey said. "He's put together good at-bats and has the ability to drive the ball. Scutaro has been outstanding hitting behind him, and Pablo, he's been really hot lately."

Only a few men, legends of the sport, ever have been as hot as Sandoval was on a cool October night at AT&T Park. But he had a lot of help from his friends.

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