While Pablo Sandoval didn't play a big part in the San Francisco Giants' World Series run two years ago, he's already left his mark on this one.
After becoming the fourth player to hit three home runs in a World Series game, all eyes will be on Sandoval as the Giants host the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 on Thursday night.
Sandoval took Justin Verlander deep twice before belting a solo shot off Al Alburquerque, leading San Francisco to an 8-3 win Wednesday in Game 1. The two-time all-star joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players with three-homer games in the Series, finishing the night 4 for 4 with four runs batted in.
"Man, I still can't believe it," said Sandoval, who was benched in four of five games during the Giants' 2010 World Series win over Texas.
"You have to keep focused, keep focused and playing your game. You don't have to be too excited.
"The Series is not over. You have to keep playing your game.
"I didn't get a chance to play too much (in 2010). I'm enjoying this World Series, I'm enjoying all my moments."
Sandoval will look to stay hot against Doug Fister, who hasn't received a decision, despite compiling a 1.35 earned-run average in two post-season starts. In his most recent outing, the right-hander allowed six hits and four walks over 6 1/3 scoreless innings of a 6-4, 12-inning road win over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS.
A native of Merced, Calif., Fister has never faced the Giants. Marco Scutaro, batting .432 during an 11-game hitting streak, is San Francisco's only active player with any experience against Fister, going 1 for 11 in their matchups.
"Growing up, don't tell anybody, I was a Giants fan and being able to come to a couple games when I was little, it's always been a dream and a goal for me and now it's happening," Fister, 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA over four career playoff starts, said of playing in a World Series by the Bay.
"It's definitely special being able to come into the ballpark and play in a World Series is something that, obviously, is a moment that will never be forgotten."
"We've got it fixed'
The Giants counter with Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 11.25 ERA), who's struggled this post-season.
After giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 9-0 loss to Cincinnati in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the left-hander was tagged for six runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
"I think we were going through some mechanical issues," he said. "Just some small things that might have affected my arm and made it more difficult to throw and I think that's really all it was."
"I think we've got it fixed. Like I said before, there's no way to tell 100 per cent until you get out there and get going game speed.
"But hopefully, that's all it was. But regardless, whether the velocity is up or down or whatever, I still got to find a way to make pitches and compete, keep us in the game."
'Momentum is your next day's pitcher'
Bumgarner was, in contrast, very sharp during the 2010 post-season, going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA over four games, including three starts. He threw eight innings of three-hit ball during a 4-0 win at Texas in Game 4 of that World Series.
In his only career appearance against Detroit, Bumgarner gave up one run, five hits and struck out nine over 7 1/3 innings, but didn't factor in the decision of a 4-3 road win July 1, 2011.
The Giants, who trailed St. Louis 3-1 before storming back to win the pennant, have won their last four games by a 28-4 margin. San Francisco is hitting .316 with runners in scoring position during that stretch after going 4 for 6 Wednesday.
"I'm a guy that doesn't believe in momentum in baseball," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think momentum is your next day's pitcher."
Detroit had outscored opponents 25-6 during a five-game run prior to Wednesday's defeat. Jhonny Peralta connected on a two-run homer and Triple Crown-winner Miguel Cabrera went 1 for 3 with an RBI.
The winner in Game 1 of the World Series has gone on to win the championship 66 of 107 times.