SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pablo Sandoval got the Giants off to a quick World Series start, homering against Justin Verlander in the first and third innings as San Francisco took a 4-0 lead over the Detroit Tigers in Wednesday night's opener.
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.
Angel Pagan had another of the Giants' unusual postseason hits with two outs in the third when his one-hopper kicked off the corner of the third-base bag and ricocheted past Miguel Cabrera at almost a right angle into short left field. Marco Scutaro, who struck out just once in 48 at-bats during the NL playoffs, fouled off two 98 mph full-count pitches and lined a single into center field to bring up Sandoval.
Barry Zito, dropped from the Giants' roster for the 2010 postseason after a four-year slump, allowed two hits through three innings and threw 43 pitches. The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner was helped when left fielder Gregor Blanco made a neat diving grab of a liner by Cabrera to end the third with a man on.
Verlander allowed four runs and five hits in the first three innings and threw 70 pitches. He was 0-2 as a rookie in the 2006 Series against Detroit but had been superb this October, going 3-0 with 0.74 ERA.
Coming off its first AL pennant since 2006, Detroit had nearly a week off after sweeping the New York Yankees in the AL championship series. San Francisco had just a day to rest after overcoming a 3-1 deficit against defending champion St. Louis in the NLCS.
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.
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.
Detroit had just the seventh-best record in the 14-team AL at 88-74, and no previous World Series team had been lower than fifth, according to STATS LLC. San Francisco was tied for third in the NL at 94-68.
Back in San Francisco's bayside ballpark for the second time in three years, the World Series took on the Giants' Halloween colors of orange and black as fans waved towels and pompons. The Grateful Dead's "I Will Survive" and "Friend of the Devil" were among the songs played as the Tigers took batting practice.
Renel Brooks-Moon, who in 2002 became the first woman to be serve as public-address announcer for a Series game, skipped over Detroit's reserves during the pregame introductions.
Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry and Orlando Cepeda were on the field for the ceremonial first pitch — thrown by Perry.
Detroit also brought along some baseball royalty in Hall of Famer Al Kaline, a team adviser.
Seeking their first World Series title since 1984, the Tigers helped create the first title matchup between teams from the AL Central and NL West.
NOTES: The team hosting the first two games has won 21 of the last 26 World Series: the exceptions were Toronto (1992), the Yankees (1999), Florida (2003), St. Louis (2006) and Philadelphia (2008). ... Cabrera became the fourth player to appear in the Series in the year he won the Triple Crown, joining Mickey Mantle (1956), Frank Robinson (1966) and Carl Yastrzemski (1967)