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COHN: Verlander, Shmerlander — Panda owns him

  • Pablo Sandoval celebrates his first of three home runs during game 1 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012 in San Francisco. The Giants won 8-3. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

SAN FRANCISCO

Calling Pablo Sandoval The Panda isn't enough, not anymore. It doesn't do justice to what he did in Game 1 of the World Series.

Sandoval hit three home runs, hit them in his first three at-bats. Amazing. So, maybe we should stop calling him just plain Panda and rename him The Panda of Swat or The Power Panda or The Slayer of Verlander. Because he killed Detroit starting pitcher Justin Verlander, who is supposed to be the best pitcher in ball, kill-proof and invincible. The Panda of Swat sure made him vincible.

World Series Game 1: Giants vs. Tigers

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The three home runs in one World Series game vaults Sandoval up there with the other guys who did it, call them the first-name guys — the Babe (he did it twice), Reggie and Albert. OK, Albert is Albert Pujols, but you get the idea. Sandoval just entered a special Home Run Pantheon.

Homer No. 1 came in the bottom of the first. Verlander had retired the first two batters, and Sandoval came to the plate and you figured Verlander, who was throwing 94 mph, would blow him away and stroll to the dugout and relax. But Sandoval crushed a high fastball over the Visa sign in center field — it went 421 feet.

Here is Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants' best explainer, on Homer No. 1: "(Verlander) tried to throw an 0-2 fastball up over his hands, and he didn't get high enough. Pablo, he's not afraid to swing the bat. He'll swing at any count, really. If you don't get it high enough, that's what will happen. Going dead center in our place is really hard to do, but it just shows how strong he is."

Call Homer No. 1 a statement home run. It didn't decide the game or vanquish Verlander — that would come later. It announced to the Tigers and the world the Giants felt zero intimidation. Verlander Shmerlander.

Homer No. 2 was even more impressive. Verlander threw a pitch on the outside corner, on the black, as they say. A pitch like that is supposed to be unhittable. Sandoval waited on it, let the ball get deep into his stance, went with it and blasted it into the left-field seats — 379 feet — and drove in Marco Scutaro.

On the radio, Duane Kuiper said in his understated way, "I guess we know who has ownage on Verlander."

True, in the All Star Game, Sandoval hit a three-run triple off Verlander. We're talking major ownage. After Homer No. 2, Verlander turned around in disgust and shouted something like "Wow!" That's how good his pitch was.


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