Pablo Sandoval: A Tribute to Panda’s Historic World Series Night

Wednesday October 31st, 2012

Luke Whitecotton:  When I mention Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols, what words come to mind to describe these guys? Probably legends, greatness, clutch hitters, and champions. Now what if  I asked the same question about Pablo Sandoval or better known as “Kung Fu Panda”? You can say champion. But legend,clutch hitter and greatness might not be anywhere near your radar. What if I  told you he had one of those magical October nights? One that people in and out of baseball will talk about for years to come, and something those other greats did not do. Would you say that I was crazy, or maybe a little out of my mind? Well, maybe- but Pablo Sandoval was a legend, great, and a clutch hitter on a special October night in San Francisco.

The stage was set at AT&T Park in San Francisco for the 2012 World Series. Electricity was in the air, the park was packed, and we as fans were finally ready to witness greatness. The Giants coming in on an outstanding run in the playoffs to get here knocking out the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, although being down 3 games to 1, then they knocked off last years champs the St Louis Cardinals in 7 games to finally reach the World Series. The team that they were going to face was the Detroit Tigers and their “big money heavy hitters”. The Tigers got here by knocking off the Oakland As in 5 games and then went on to sweep the dreaded New York Yankees.You would have to think the Tigers were going to be the favorites in this series after what they did to get here, sweeping the Yankees, and also having the best pitcher in all of baseball, who would start game 1. Sometimes what you think you know and what happens in baseball is something no one can ever explain. On this night, that very comment proved to be very true.

During the first inning of game 1, Justin Verlander came to the mound poised to dominate the way he has all postseason long. 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA to be exact. It all looked pretty good for Verlander in that first inning getting the first two outs. Next to the plate was Pablo Sandoval who fell to 0 and 2 and looking as good as out especially against who was on the mound. Then Verlander whipped a 95 mph fastball up in the zone, and Sandoval (who isn’t afraid to swing) got a hold of  the pitch, sending it over the right center wall for a solo shot, and an early lead. Crazy, stunned that was pretty much what I saw on Tiger fans. Just another fact Justin Verlander didn’t give up an 0-2 fastball all year-long. Most of us didn’t give that home run a second thought. Yes it was a little shocking, but not back-breaking.

Now the fans were excited, as Barry Zito could probably breath again with getting an early lead. All he had to do was pitch like he did in his last outing against the Cardinals (which he did). As people were getting settled in from talking about that first home run, Justin Verlander was not quite himself, a little erratic in fact. He fell behind early to hitters in the 3rd inning. Verlander than pitched to get two outs and brining up Angel Pagan, the pesky one. Pagan would hit a double to start the 2 out rally, which two batters later would plate another run. Still 2 outs, Pablo Sandoval came up to the plate. Verlander would fall behind in the count, which drove pitching coach Jeff Jones to come to the mound. The strategy was in place and he was ready to pitch again. The next pitch which was another 95 mph fastball was driven to the opposite way to left. Sandoval hit another home run, and fans watched him fist pump going around first, then we see Verlander say WOW which was the only thing anyone could say. Sandoval who hit 12 home runs all season has just hit two in one game, against the best pitcher and in the world. October magic was showing its head, or was it lightning in a bottle? At the end of the day, we were just going to see an outstanding performance by a fan favorite.

Justin Verlander was chased from the game in the 4th inning after giving  up 5 runs. Hardly the pitcher that we seen all postseason, and definitely shell-shocked. He didn’t have command from the start, he was over-pitching and it looked as if he was trying to hit 100mph on every pitch. Still one had to wonder if the Tigers could still come back. After all, they had some big boppers too, well paid ones and ones who loved to hit balls a mile. Could they do it or was the hole to big? Was all the wind knocked out of their sails? Maybe they would  cut their losses and take it to them in game 2.

Probably not. With these hitters, the Tigers have proven that no lead is safe, and most believed that it wasn’t over. In the 5th inning, we saw Jim Leyland call Al Alburquerque out of the bullpen. Maybe he could keep the game close? With 1 out and nobody on, Pablo Sandoval came to the plate again. Now there is no way that anyone thought he could hit a 3rd home run here. Then a pitch came and crack… a long fly ball, a moon shot over the center field wall. Wow, he has done it again! A 3-homer game on baseball’s biggest stage. October Magic is here and it smells great. More fist pumps from Sandoval as a Panda chant started. The casual baseball fan thinks it’s great he just saw something pretty cool. But a real baseball fan realizes although special (and cool),  thinks about the history of the night. And what real baseball fan doesn’t love history. The Tiger fan however is in shock and can’t believe what has happened, but at the same time respect probably comes next. Pablo Sandoval went from solid player, a fan favorite, to being mentioned with some of the greatest names in baseball history. All it took was one special night.

The only way to describe the magnitude of this accomplishment is to say two words: Babe Ruth. Sandoval is now on the same list as Ruth, who did this twice 1926 and 1928, Reggie Jackson who did it in 1977, and Albert Pujols who did it last year (2011). However Pablo Sandoval upstaged all of these guys by accomplishing the feat in 3 consecutive at-bats. He is the first player in Major League History to hit 3 home runs in consecutive at bats in a World Series game, WOW. To highlight this magical night, we would also have to mention that Barry Bonds the home run king never hit 3 home runs in AT&t park, and he played there 8 years. Sandoval also became the 10th player in history to hit 2 or more home runs in the first game of the World Series. He set a Giants team record by posting a RBI in 6 straight games (a record previously held by Barry Bonds). The stats and team records that Sandoval broke are nothing short of amazing. He will be remembered forever with some of the greatest baseball players of all-time. An accomplishment that nobody can ever take away from him. He did it with class and dignity. We thank you Pablo Sandoval, for giving us a feeling of that special October baseball magic.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

About the Author:  Luke Whitecotton is a married and a father of two children Logan and Lilly. He lives in Illinois, about an hour from Chicago. Luke played and followed baseball his entire life. To him its the greatest sport in the world!  Luke hopes to communicate with all the great readers and fans at MLB reports, as he loves to talk about anything and everything baseball. You can follow Luke Whitecotton on Twitter (@stlrsfn1_luke)

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Posted on October 31, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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