Sandoval writes his name among World Series legends


Sandoval writes his name among World Series legends


SAN FRANCISCO Just a few seconds before the first pitch ofevery game, Pablo Sandoval writes something in the dirt behind third base, heswipes it away with a brush of his hand, then he flings a cloud of red dirt inthe air.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford knows the ritual well. Hes neverasked about it. Neither has left fielder Gregor Blanco or second baseman MarcoScutaro.

Man, hes got so much ... stuff, Scutaro said. He isdoing something all the time.

What Sandovaldid in Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday night was something transformative,something historic and maybe a bit mystical. He wrote his name alongside BabeRuth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols -- heavy hitters, all -- as the onlyplayers in history to hit three home runs in a World Series game.

RELATED: Sandoval joins rare list

It cannot, will not be swiped away.

Man, I still can't believe it, said Sandoval, after hishaymakers knocked out Justin Verlander in the Giants tone-setting, 8-3 victoryat AT&T Park. I'm enjoying this World Series. I'm enjoying all mymoments. You never know when it's going to happen again.It means alot for my family, my friends, my teammates. They all pull together to behere.

Sandoval did not have these moments two years ago. He wentfrom starting third baseman to chief towel waver, untrusted to pick up a groundball because he had gotten too heavy. He was out of breath after taking ahalf-dozen grounders. Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled the plug after Game 2of that NL Division Series against Atlanta, moving Juan Uribe to third base andputting a forgotten, injury-marred veteran, Edgar Renteria, at shortstop.

That move worked out pretty okay. Renteria became the only WorldSeries MVP in Giants history, after all.

Now Sandoval is the leader in the clubhouse for that honor.He homered to center off a searing fastball from Justin Verlander in the first inning, shocked theTigers ace by taking an outside fastball the opposite way for a two-run shot inthe third, then backspun a slider from Al Alburquerque over the center field wallin the fifth to become the first player in World Series history to homer in eachof his first three at-bats in Game 1.

A single in his final at-bat completed a 4-for-4 game andhis 13 total bases stands alone in second place, behind Pujols (14, on threehomers and a double) for the most in a World Series game.

He killed the whole mood, joked left-hander JeremyAffeldt. I mean, if youre going to hit three home runs, you dont hit thesingle fourth.

Sandoval already looked to be locking in this postseason. Hehit three homers in the first two rounds, and in the Giants six eliminationvictories, he was 10-for-24 (.417) with two doubles, two home runs and fiveRBIs.

Sandoval had produced when the Giants most needed him. Andagainst Verlander, a pitcher who was more terminator than man, Sandoval pickedhim up and flung him into a vat of molten steel.

Thats the most amazing thing, Giants pinch hitter AubreyHuff said. Youre talking about a guy whos the best on the planet right now.He took a pitch up and in, hard, and hit it out to center. I mean, how did hehit it? I can see how youd get lucky and pull it, but to dead center? Itshard to do that. I dont know many guys in the league who can hit all off that.The first one I think of is maybe Barry Bonds in his heyday.

"Im astonished,really. We all were.

Not even Bonds hit three home runs in a game at AT&TPark. It hadnt been done since the very first regular-season game here, 13years ago, when the Dodgers Kevin Elster parked a trio and everyone assumedthe little waterfront stadium would play like a bandbox.

Well, that didnt happen. In fact, the Giants hit just 31home runs in 81 home games all season -- far and away the fewest by a home teamin the major leagues. No Giant had hit three home runs at home since Bonds in1994, at Candlestick Park.

Barry never did it? Now thats impressive, Giants hittingcoach Hensley Bam Bam Meulens said. This is not a home run park, but it waswarmer today than usual.

With the 5 p.m. start, the early innings are usually thetime when the Giants take batting practice before a night game. The ball alwayscarries better before the temperatures drop. And Verlander was providing powerwith his upper-90s fastball.

Sandoval managed to backspin pitches off the barrel, andphysics did the rest -- even if Verlander, wow-face and all, couldnt quitebelieve it.

It was extremely impressive, Verlander said. I wish Ihadn't contributed.

Sandovals home run in the first inning came on an 0-2 pitchthat Verlander tried to run above Sandovals hands. He didnt get it highenough. It was just the fourth home run Verlander had allowed on an 0-2 pitchin his career; he hadnt given one up all season.

Verlander entered with a 3-0 record, a 0.74 ERA in threepostseason starts and an unbeatable air. Two years ago, the Texas RangersCliff Lee had that same aura, along with a 3-0 record and 0.75 ERA in threepostseason starts.

The Giants won Game 1 then, and they won it now.

This was a big hyped game with Justin, probably a lot ofpressure on him, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. But I don't think it hadanything to do with the pressure. His fastball command was not good, he got out of sync, hegot on fast forward.He just did not pitch well tonight, it's that simple.

But I go back, I want to start by giving the Giant hitterscredit. I would not take anything away from them.

Especially Sandoval.

Hes an outstanding hitter, obviously, and he just had oneof those nights where anything we threw, he hit, Leyland said. I think youcertainly tip your hat to what Sandoval did tonight.You can't sit up hereand say what he did tonight was a fluke. I mean, it was unbelievable. Theguy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talkingabout for years.So I tip my hat to him.

Sandoval hit just 12 home runs in a regular season interrupted by injuries. Hemissed six weeks with a fractured hamate bone in his left hand. Its a boo-boothat a player can only have once -- unless you are a switch hitter, and youbreak the other hand. It was Sandovals misfortune, and his penchant forresting the meaty part of his palm on the barrel, that led to hamate fracturesin each of the past two seasons.

Then there was the hamstring injury that sent him to the DLafter the All-Star break, when he did the splits while receiving a throw atfirst base.

It was frustrating, disheartening. But not more than 2010,when his issue wasnt injury but a perceived lack of commitment. He didntstart any of the three postseason series clinchers, and his World Seriesexperience consisted of three hitless at-bats as the DH in Game 3.

He didnt play in the four most important games of theyear, Meulens said. When he didnt play in the World Series, he said, 'Thatsnot going to happen again.'

Sandoval is heavier than last season, but better conditionedthan before. In a sense, though, hes never been bigger.

Hes skinny for me right now, said Meulens, elicitinglaughs.

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: Well, I'm happy forhim. I'm sure he looks back at that time, that experience he had, and I'msure he wasn't too happy with how it went there in 2010. He looks verydetermined to show that not just us, everybody, what a great talent he is.

We've always thought a lot of Pablo, but at that time wehad to make a change. But we need him. I think the time from hissurgery, he's gotten stronger the last month and is swinging the bat the way weknow he can.

But three home runs in a World Series game? The frenzieddugout reaction said it all.

The second and third one, I think it was more shock that hehit another one, shortstop Brandon Crawford said. So each time it seemed tobuild and build. But hell hit a slider off his front foot and put it in thewater. So nothing he does surprises me.

Buster Posey had the best view of anyone from the on-deckcircle.

Just the other day I was telling somebody I couldntbelieve itd been done three times in the World Series, Posey said. You lookup and 24 hours later, I was right there to see it. I had a great look at it.

And what did Posey see?

Well, I looked in the dugout to see all their faces, and Iwas watching Pablo enjoy the moment, taking in his reaction and hisexpression, Posey said. It was great. I mean, Pablos always happy. But hewas really, really happy.

Meulens was most happy about the second homer, on aVerlander pitch away after Sandoval didnt bite on two change-ups in the dirt.

Hes got an uncanny ability to hit the ball in all ninequadrants of the zone, Meulens said. The ball down in the zone is the one hehits the hardest, the one we want him to focus on. But when hes locked in, hecan hit anything. That was as far down and away as you can go and Pablo stayedon it.

Sandoval cracked his bat on a foul ball during his thirdat-bat. So he retired that one and picked up a new one. He used the new bat totake a right turn on Alburquerque. The Hall of Fame gladly took possession ofthe broken one, which he used to hit his two homers off Verlander.

Yeah, man.I use that bat all my postseason, saidSandoval, who usually employs more bats than the Carlsbad Caverns. I don't gettoo much superstition.There's more bats in there to swing. It's notthe bat. It's you.

It's everything you've got inside you.

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

MiLB/Sacramento River Cats

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

Every time the Journey song “Lights” plays throughout AT&T Park, the lyrics When the lights go down in the City ring too true for the Giants’ offense. There’s a power outage in San Francisco. 

The savior to this issue can soon be prospect Chris Shaw, who turns 24 years old on Oct. 20. Shaw, along with five other Giants prospects, is continuing his 2017 season among a multitude of baseball’s best young up-and-comers in the Arizona Fall League. As he takes the field for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Shaw’s bat is far from the top focus for the Giants. 

After playing right and left field at Boston College, the Giants turned Shaw into a first baseman once they selected the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty in 2015. This year, the Giants’ front office decided to make a change. As the big league team continued to look for their own answers, Shaw saw himself in left field in 94 of the 125 games he played between Double-A and Triple-A this season. 

“I saw improvements through the course of the year,” Brian Sabean said about Shaw’s outfield defense on The Giants Insider Podcast. “The problem is playing left field in our left field isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.” 

The AFL is all about reps in left field for Shaw as the Giants have already said he will get a long look in spring training. He earned that right after a breakout year at the plate.

One week into the AFL though, Shaw’s bat is way behind. Through four games, Shaw is batting a pedestrian .133 (2-for-15), both hits being singles. But even in such a slow start there are positives. 

Shaw has walked three times to only two strikeouts. His only downfall at the plate once he reached Triple-A Sacramento was his on-base percentage fell from .390 in Double-A to .328 at the higher level. With the River Cats, Shaw struck out 106 times, leading the team, while taking his base 20 times.

Early on in the desert, Shaw is showing more patience and putting the ball into play more often. The ball simply isn’t finding grass.

In the outfield, every ball Shaw sees -- practice or game -- during the AFL is a step in the right direction for he and the Giants. He is yet to make an error in his short time at the AFL. The big lefty will never be a guy to make the spectacular play, but if he improves his instincts with the glove and improves his eye at the plate, the Giants can finally have their left fielder of the future. 

Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster


Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Corey Seager has been left off the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers announced Seager's surprise omission due to a back injury on Saturday, several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.

Chicago made only one change from the last playoff round, adding reliever Hector Rondon and removing reliever Justin Wilson.

Seager complained of back soreness during the Dodgers' NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn't participate in team workouts this week. Still, manager Dave Roberts said Friday that he was very optimistic that Seager would play in the NLCS.

Seager was an All-Star selection this season while batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs as a key part of the top of the Dodgers' lineup.

Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Culberson all worked out at shortstop Friday for the Dodgers. The versatile Taylor was the Dodgers' center fielder during the NLDS, but he made 96 appearances in the outfield this season and 44 in the infield, including 14 games at shortstop.

Pederson is batting .071 with no homers since July, but the Dodgers could need him in center field if Taylor plays shortstop.

Culberson famously homered to clinch the Dodgers' NL West title in announcer Vin Scully's final home game last season, but the infielder spent most of this season at Triple-A, appearing in only 14 games for the Dodgers.

Rondon was the Cubs' closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman's arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.

Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran left-handed reliever who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn't great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.

Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers.