It took the San Francisco Giants all of three batters to tell the world whether they could hit Justin Verlander. Viewed as underdogs despite playing at home, the Giants opened Game 1 with a run in the first off the bat of Pablo Sandoval, a home run to center on an 0-2 count. Two innings later, with the Giants holding a 2-0 lead, Sandoval again took Verlander deep, this time sending a 2-0 pitch over the left-field wall to give San Francisco a 4-0 lead. And in the fifth, with Verlander out of the game, the Kung Fu Panda continued the onslaught, sending a 1-1 pitch from Al Alburquerque over the center-field wall for a 6-0 lead. With a chance for a fourth home run in the seventh, Sandoval failed to homer — singling instead for a four-hit night.
Legends of the fall
With his three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, the Giants' Pablo Sandoval did a lot more than answer critics who wondered whether the San Francisco bats could get to Justin Verlander. He added his name to an exclusive list of players — some with Hall of Fame pedigrees, others with impeccable timing — who came through in the biggest of ways on baseball's grandest stage. Take a look at those who stand with Sandoval, above and beyond their peers in postseason lore.
Christy Mathewson — 1905 World Series
Mathewson, of course, didn’t have the luxury of padding his numbers with Division and League Championship Series. So his postseason credentials were earned on the widest of wide stages. And his credentials? A postseason ERA of 0.97, 10 complete games in 11 starts, and three shutouts in the 1905 World Series.
Babe Ruth — 1926 & 1928 World Series
Leave it to The Babe to set a World Series home run mark that has yet to be eclipsed. And leave it to The Babe to do it twice — a feat which has yet to be equaled. He first hit three bombs in a World Series game on Oct. 6, 1926. He then did it again nearly two years to the day later, on Oct. 9, 1928. The first time he did it, the Yankees beat the Cardinals 10-5 to even the series at 2-2 — a series the Cardinals ultimately won over the Yankees in seven. In 1928, The Bambino's three-dinger game also came against the Cardinals, and also game in Game 4. This time, however, his bat proved to be the dagger in the Cardinals, as New York swept the series.
Bobby Thomson — 1951 NLCS, Game 3
New York Giants OF Bobby Thomson's legendary "Shot Heard 'round the World" off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds gave the Giants the National League pennant on Oct. 3, 1951. The Giants won the game 5–4, defeating the Dodgers two games to one and earning a trip to the World Series. The Giants fell to the Yankees, four games to two, in the Fall Classic.
Don Larsen — 1956 World Series, Game 5
Larsen threw a perfect game on the world's biggest stage — the World Series. In Game 2 of the 1956 Fall Classic, Larsen lasted less than two innings, allowing four runs on four walks. He didn't know he was going to start Game 5 until he arrived at the stadium. Only one Dodger (Pee Wee Reese) reached a three-ball count. The Dodgers had the highest season winning percentage (.604) of any team to surrender a perfect game.
Bill Mazeroski — 1960 World Series, Game 7
The heavily overmatched Pirates were outscored in the 1960 World Series by a margin of 55 to 27, but they nonetheless wound up upsetting the Yankees in seven games. The Series ended when Mazeroski, a slick-fielding second baseman hardly known for his bat, drove a 1-0 pitch from Ralph Terry over the left-field wall to give the Pirates a 10-9 win. In doing so, Mazeroski became the first player to end a World Series with a home run.
Sandy Koufax — postseason body of work
Koufax’s resume: Eight World Series games, 0.95 ERA, two shutouts in three days during the '65 Fall Classic (!), three rings. Yes, he played in the run-suppressing 1960s; and, yes, Dodger Stadium helped even more. But “The Left Arm of God” delivered by any standard during the playoffs.
Reggie Jackson — 1977 World Series
Reggie Jackson wasn't called Mr. October for nothing. Jackson, then with the New York Yankees, hit homers in Games 4 and 5 of the 1977 World Series vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jackson's crowning achievement came with his three-homer performance in clinching Game 6. Each bomb came off the first pitch, off three different Dodger pitchers. Jackson had hit a home run off Dodger pitcher Don Sutton in his last at-bat in Game 5, giving him four home runs on four consecutive swings against four different Dodger pitchers. Jackson became the first player to be named World Series MVP for two different teams. In 27 World Series games, he hit 10 home runs, including a record five during the 1977 Series, 24 RBI and a .357 batting average.
Kirk Gibson — 1988 World Series, Game 1
In Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson could scarcely walk. But — as Dennis Eckersley and the A's would learn — he could still hit. Gibson stepped in with a runner on first and the Dodgers down by one run in the bottom of the ninth. After running the count full, Gibson looked for a backdoor slider from Eck. He got one and smoked it over the Dodger Stadium right-field wall. "I don't believe what I just saw!" growled Jack Buck. Neither did the rest of us.
Joe Carter — 1993 World Series, Game 6
With his Toronto Blue Jays ahead three games to two in the 1993 World Series, Joe Carter hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6 to give the Jays their second consecutive championship (the first repeaters since the 1977–78 Yankees). This was only the second Series concluded by a walk-off homer (joining the blast by Bill Mazeroski for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates).
Edgar Renteria — 1997 World Series, Game 7
The 1997 World Series featured the Cleveland Indians, playing in their second World Series in three years, vs. the Florida Marlins, who set a then-record by reaching the Series in only their fifth season. The underdog Marlins capped a stunning season by beating the Indians, becoming the first wild-card team to win the Series. Edgar Renteria's walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 was the deciding shot.
Curt Schilling — 2004 postseason
There's plenty to remember from Boston's magical run to its first World Series title in 86 years, but perhaps the most iconic image is that of a sock. It's fitting that the Red Sox would rely on a pitcher in a pivotal ALCS Game 6 vs. the Yankees that would pitch with a sock that was literally red, soaked in blood. Boston's Curt Schilling had surgery earlier in the season on his ankle and was expected to miss the postseason, but a procedure allowed him to pitch. In Game 6 of the ALCS vs. the Yankees, Schilling delivered with a one-run performance over seven innings. In the World Series, Schilling, who racked up 11 postseason victories and two World Series rings, did his best encore against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up one run over six innings.
Roy Halladay — 2010 NLDS, Game 1
The Phillies' Roy Halladay opened the 2010 postseason by tossing a no-hitter against the Reds in his playoff debut. He finished the 2010 postseason with a 2-1 record and a 2.45 ERA. He was 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in the 2011 NLDS.
Albert Pujols — 2011 World Series, Game 3
Albert Pujols had a historic night on Oct. 22, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. Not only did Pujols sock three homers (tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson for the World Series record, which was equaled by Pablo Sandoval in 2012), he also drove in six runs (tying a World Series record) on a 5-for-6 night. The St. Louis slugger also had 14 total bases (a World Series record) to lead the Cards to a 16-7 rout of the Rangers, en route to the championship in seven games.