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Strong playoff showing for Pablo follows tough season

AFP-JIJI

Pablo Sandoval’s postseason resurgence continued in stunning style on Wednesday, with a World Series record-equalling three home runs in San Francisco’s 8-3 Game 1 win over Detroit.

Sandoval had homered in Games 4 and 5 of San Francisco’s National League Championship Series win over St. Louis, but his performance on Wednesday in the opening game of Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series took post-season heroics to another level.

The Giants third baseman, affectionately known as the Kung Fu Panda because of his large but cuddly looking frame, homered in his first three at bats.

Only three other players have hit three homers in one World Series contest. Legendary Babe Ruth did it twice, in 1926 and 1928, Reggie Jackson did it in 1977 and Albert Pujols did it in Game 5 of St. Louis’ victory over Texas last year.

“When he hit his third, we were just going nuts in there,” Giants pitcher Barry Zito said of the reaction in the team’s dugout. “We were going nuts. “We didn’t know at that point if it even had ever been done. We were just like ‘Oh, my gosh’.

“We’ve seen a lot of different stuff from Pablo,” Zito said of Sandoval’s ability to belt them. It’s kind of hard to impress us with what we’ve seen, but we were all very impressed tonight.”

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he could only tip his hat to Sandoval.

“The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they’ll be talking about for years,” Leyland said.

For Sandoval, the outburst continues a strong postseason after a disappointing regular season that yielded just 12 homers and 63 RBIs and included two long spells on the disabled list.

He missed more than 50 games total with a broken bone in his left hand in May and a strained left hamstring in June.

“He’s been locked in for a while,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “And the home runs, really, it’s not easy to hit them where he hit them. Just a tremendous night.”

It was also a night that wouldn’t have seemed possible in 2010, when Sandoval’s lackluster performance — and questionable fitness — meant he was kept mostly on the bench by Bochy in the Giants’ World Series triumph.

He was hitless in three at-bats in that World Series.

“You know, we’ve got ups and downs in our career,” Sandoval said. “Not every year is going to be up. At that point you have to keep your head up and keep focusing and keep working hard.”

Getting this second chance on the game’s biggest stage “means a lot,” Sandoval said.

“I’m enjoying all my moments. You never know when it’s going to happen again.”

Bochy said Sandoval had matured since 2010, and Sandoval agreed.

“You have to learn,” he said. “You have to enjoy the moments by not getting too excited. That’s one of my things. I have to keep focused in that way. Today was the first game, tomorrow we come here and try to do the same, win the game.”