San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco Giants weren't about to experience another slow start. Pablo Sandoval made sure of it.
The All-Star slugger tied a World Series record by socking three home runs as the Giants gained the upper hand in the 2012 Fall Classic with a convincing 8- 3 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 from AT&T Park.
Sandoval delivered a solo homer off Justin Verlander in the bottom of the first inning, a two-run blast against the Detroit ace in the third, and connected off reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth to become only the third player in World Series history to go deep three times in a single game -- and first to do so in his first three at-bats.
The third baseman, who finished 4-for-4 with four RBI, joins some very select company, with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols the only ones to previously accomplish the feat. Ruth did it in both the 1926 and '28 World Series, Jackson in the 1977 edition and Pujols during the St. Louis Cardinals' victory over the Texas Rangers in last year's Game 3.
"Man, I still can't believe it," Sandoval said afterward. "When you're a little kid, you dream of being in the World Series, but I was thinking of being in this situation, three homers in one game."
Marco Scutaro, the MVP of the Giants' come-from-behind triumph over the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, kept up his own torrid hitting by collecting two singles and two RBI, while Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum helped maintain the momentum by teaming up for eight strong innings.
Zito (1-0) held the Tigers to one run on six hits and a walk over the first 5 2/3 frames, with Lincecum striking out five over 2 1/3 perfect innings after taking over for his fellow former Cy Young Award recipient.
San Francisco had dropped its opener in both the NLDS and NLCS and advanced by staving off elimination a remarkable six times in those two series, including a 9-0 victory over St. Louis on Monday that gave the Giants the league pennant.
"We're having fun right now," Sandoval remarked. "The first series, second series, and now in the World Series, we're having fun. In the first couple games we were not having fun; we had too much pressure."
Detroit, on the other hand, swept the scuffling New York Yankees in the ALCS and had not played since last Thursday. The Tigers seemed to feel the effects of the extended layoff, falling behind 6-0 after five innings and receiving a subpar stint from Verlander (0-1).
The 2011 AL MVP lasted just four innings in his shortest outing of the season and was tagged for five runs and six hits.
"His command was not good; I think he just got out of pitching, started throwing a little bit too much," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Verlander. "But I think you start with giving the Giant hitters credit. They did a good job. They're very pesky, and obviously the big guy had one of those unbelievable nights that happens once in a while in a World Series."
Jhonny Peralta had a two-run homer for Detroit, which had won five in a row dating back to Game 5 of the ALDS, with Austin Jackson and ALCS hero Delmon Young each contributing two hits in a losing cause.
Sandoval entered the contest having driven in a run in five consecutive games, matching a franchise postseason record originally set by Barry Bonds, and wasted no time breaking that mark.
He spotted Verlander an 0-2 count in his first plate appearance, then hammered a fastball by the accomplished right-hander 411 feet over the center- field wall to stake San Francisco to an immediate edge.
Verlander would set down the next six batters, but then surrendered four consecutive hits -- including Sandoval's second homer of the night -- as the Giants struck for three more runs in the third.
The two-out rally began on a fluky double from Angel Pagan, who hit a slow roller that caromed off the third-base bag and into left field. Scutaro followed with a sharp single up the middle that extended the margin to 2-0, right before Sandoval doubled the lead with an opposite-field blast into the left-field seats.
Zito aided the cause with another clutch at-bat an inning later, slapping a base hit through the left side to plate Brandon Belt for a 5-0 advantage. Belt reached base on a leadoff walk and later advanced to second on a ground out.
Verlander was removed for a pinch hitter in the fifth, though a change in pitchers would still yield the same result when Sandoval next stepped to the plate.
The stocky infielder launched a deep drive off Alburquerque that cleared the fence in center during the Giants' half of the inning, with the history-making homer providing the NL champs with a six-run cushion.
"He hit one down, he hit a couple up," said Leyland. "You can't sit up here and say what he did tonight was a fluke. I mean, it was unbelievable. The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talking about for years."
Zito did his part as well. After working out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the first by retiring Prince Fielder and Young in succession, the veteran southpaw permitted only a pair of singles over the next four innings before experiencing a stumble in the sixth.
Jackson opened the frame with a double and crossed the plate with Detroit's first run on a Miguel Cabrera single two batters later. Young would later come through with a base hit to put a pair of runners aboard and prompt Giants manager Bruce Bochy to summon Lincecum, who fanned Peralta on four pitches to end the threat.
"To have him in the bullpen, it's just like ridiculous," said Zito of Lincecum. "It's such a tool in our pocket that we can bust out at any time -- a guy that has made history with his two Cy Youngs. It was just really special personally, too, to watch Timmy carve them up and just do what he does. It was great."
San Francisco has now prevailed in each of Zito's last 14 starts, three of which have come this postseason, and he's gone 9-0 with a 3.46 ERA during that stretch.
The Giants would pour it on in the seventh at the expense of displaced Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Scutaro singled in Pagan, who began a string of four straight hits with a double, and later came home on a Buster Posey base hit that pushed the lead to 8-1.
Detroit would save some face after Bochy removed Lincecum for the ninth, as Peralta followed Young's single with a long drive off George Kontos to account for the final margin.
Game 2 will take place Thursday in San Francisco, with Madison Bumgarner getting the call for the Giants and the Tigers countering with Doug Fister.
Scutaro's two hits extended his current hit streak to 11 games, tying a franchise postseason record set by Irish Meusel from 1912-22, and he's batting .432 (19-for-44) with 10 runs scored over that time frame ... Sandoval is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with six homers and 13 RBI over his last 10 games. He became the second player to homer three times at AT&T Park, with the Los Angeles Dodgers' Kevin Elster doing so in the venue's first-ever game on Apr. 11, 2000 ... Verlander is now 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in three career World Series starts, with the first two losses coming in Detroit's ousting by St. Louis in 2006 ... The Giants improved to 7-1 this postseason when scoring first ... Cabrera extended his club-record streak of reaching base safely to 21 straight games.