The panda bear’s diet consists entirely of devouring bamboo sticks. Last night, however, The Panda feasted on baseballs.
Two Justin Verlander fastballs.Even an Al Albuquerque slider.
The Kung Fu Panda, the roly-poly, lovable third baseman stole the spotlight in Game 1. This was supposed to be Verlander’s time, Miguel Cabrera’s time.
Instead, it was Panda time.
His first three World Series at-bats resulted in home runs. The first two were on 96 mile-per-hour heaters coming from the right hand of Verlander.
In his first at bat, he fell down in the count 0-2. A letter-high fastball was slung from Verlander, and the Panda’s bamboo stick squared it up, launching it deep into the night sky at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The stadium erupted.
However, the fun had just begun.
His second at-bat saw Verlander fall behind 2-0. Forced to throw a fastball down in the count, Sandoval was ready to feast. The Panda’s swing was slightly late, but still drew solid contact.
That’s usually all it takes when the opposing pitcher tops out at triple digits.
The ball looked like a routine fly to left, but it carried, and carried, and carried.
Into the seats.
4-0, Giants. Two Panda homers, three RBI’s.
A visibly stunned Verlander mouthed one word.
Not Verlander, not myself, really, probably nobody outside of San Francisco saw this coming.
When Verlander was relieved in the fifth inning, the Panda’s meal was still not finished. Albuquerque sent a 1-1 slider down and in, and Sandoval crushed it 435 feet to straightaway center.
Game, set, match.
The last home run put Sandoval in rare company. He joined Albert Pujols, Reggie Jackson, and Babe Ruth (twice) as the only players to hit three home runs in a World Series game.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was supposed to be the best third baseman, and hitter, in this series.
In Game 1, the Panda had something to say about that.
While we are all stunned by Verlander’s performance, remember his struggles in the 2006 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. A rookie or not, losses in Game 1 and Game 5 sealed the Tigers’ fate.
The 2012 World Series is scarily off to the same start.