Pablo Sandoval hits three homers in Giants’ Game 1 rout of Tigers

Share via

SAN FRANCISCO -- There was no panic in the voice of Justin Verlander. There were flashes of anger. The first emotion to reveal itself, curiously enough, was humor.

The San Francisco Giants had just rocked Verlander as no team has in two years. The Detroit Tigers’ preferred formula to win the World Series -- two wins from Verlander, two in the other five games -- had just been wrecked.

Verlander surveyed the dozens of reporters surrounding his locker, then climbed atop a stepladder a few feet away and chuckled at the mob.

“Who are you guys waiting for?” Verlander said.

The Tigers still are waiting for their ace to show up for the World Series. Pablo Sandoval tied a World Series record with three home runs -- two of them against Verlander, whom the Giants dismissed after an unthinkably short four innings.

Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum tamed the Tigers in an 8-3 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday, two distant Cy Young Award winners pitching better than the most dominant pitcher in the game.

Zito pitched more innings than Verlander, and he gave up fewer runs. Lincecum faced seven batters in middle relief and struck out more batters than Verlander.

The Tigers put on their “It’s just one game” face. Lincecum knew better.

He said he knew the emotion the Giants used to have when he was dominant, that overwhelming expectation of victory. If his performances this spring deflated his teammates, Lincecum said, the Tigers had to be almost crushed by Verlander’s performance to open the Fall Classic.

“You’re expecting to win,” Lincecum said.

“When they go out there and Verlander doesn’t give them what they expected him to do, I’m sure it raises questions. I’ve been there. I’ve done that to us.”

Zito had too. It is amazing to realize Verlander had lost more recently than Zito even coming into the game, stunning that the guy who lost his fastball five years ago beat the guy with the best fastball in the game.

Zito even singled against Verlander, on a 97-mph fastball.

Sandoval hit a solo home run in the first inning, on an 0-2 pitch. The Giants pounded Verlander for three runs in the third, on a single by NL Championship Series most valuable player Marco Scutaro and a two-run homer by Sandoval.

Zito singled home a run in the fourth, making the Giants the first team in postseason history with an RBI from their pitcher in four consecutive games.

Verlander’s line: four innings, five runs, six hits, four strikeouts, gone.

“I was coming out here expecting ? if we were going to win, it was probably going to be 1-0 or 2-0,” Zito said.

Instead, the evening turned into a giddy romp, the stands resembling a festival more than a ballgame.

The Giants took the suspense out of the game and took out Verlander too, leaving the ace to blame his outing on command so poor that the Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones interrupted him on the mound in the middle of an at-bat.

Cameras caught Verlander asking the coach what he was doing.

“I usually know what I’m doing out there,” Verlander said. “I was ready to make my next pitch. I told Jeff when he got out there, ‘All you did is get the crowd really into it.’”

The Giants not only exposed Detroit’s woeful bullpen -- Jose Valverde, the closer at the start of the ALCS, retired one of five batters in mopup duty -- but forced it to work overtime in the one game the relievers figured to have off.

“When you use five pitchers in a game that Justin Verlander starts, that’s not good tonic,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said.

Verlander started two World Series games as a rookie, in 2006. He lost both. He was the ace this time, and he lost again.

“Is it disappointing? Yeah,” he said. “Would we have liked to win Game 1? Absolutely.

“I don’t know if you guys have been watching, but the three guys behind me have been doing pretty damn well. It’s not the end of the world by any means.”

The end of the World Series? Might be.