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SAN FRANCISCO — Game 1 of the 2012 World Series came a week early. It should have been played on Halloween, and not just because the home team was wearing black and orange. The Giants' 8-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at AT&T Park was more than unexpected. It was spooky.

The Giants' biggest inning started with a harmless ground ball that ricocheted off the third-base bag and into left field for a double by Angel Pagan. The Tigers' attempt to mount a counterattack died when slugger Delmon Young chipped a ball in front of the plate that catcher Buster Posey alertly turned into a double play, practically before Young knew what had happened.

Pablo Sandoval came disguised as Babe Ruth, joining the Bambino, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game.

And consider the Cy Young-winning pitchers who took the mound Wednesday night. Supposedly superhuman Justin Verlander of Detroit was knocked around pretty good. One-time Giants pariah Barry Zito was commanding. And former San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum came in for mop-up duty.

The world is upside-down, and Giants fans are hanging on and enjoying the view.

It's 2010 all over again, except it isn't quite. Nothing will ever match the atmosphere of the 2010 World Series. The Giants fans were practically delirious in that one, having waited more than a generation for a San Francisco baseball championship.

Make no mistake, AT&T Park is still a formidable place for a visitor to play. The panda hats and the orange-and-black Cat in the Hat headgear were out in force Wednesday. The crowd was a big factor. But a couple innings into the game, many seats sat empty in the upper deck of the stadium. Yes, people were probably in line for beers or pushing to get through the gates. But could you picture empty seats in 2010, even in the second inning?

If the intensity of the experience has dialed down a little in two years, however, following the tribulations of the 2012 Giants might be just as enjoyable in its way.

"This is fun. That was stress," said Brian Ladd, 52, of Livermore. "After the first two games against Cincinnati (both losses), it was like I was kind of ticked off. Whatever happens happens. And then St. Louis, coming back from down three games to one. It's much more fun than it was in 2010. We're having a blast."

Ladd was enjoying the game with a fellow teacher, Brian Battilega of Pleasanton, courtesy of a former student of theirs. Battilega, 45, agreed with Ladd's assessment of the mood.

"Everybody's crazy," he said. "But it's a different crazy. It's not a starved crazy, but more like a fun crazy."

Of course, it's hard not to have fun when your team is beating the unbeatable Verlander. The Detroit fireballer had entered the game with a 3-0 record, a 0.74 earned run average and 26 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings in the postseason, and was well rested after the Tigers had dismissed the Yankees in four games.

But the Giants roughed up Verlander for five earned runs in four innings, his shortest outing of the entire season. Even Zito, never mistaken for a trained hitter, spanked an RBI single against the bewildered Verlander.

No one thrashed him like Sandoval, who hardly played in the 2010 postseason at the tail end of a disappointing year. The Panda twice took Verlander into the seats, driving a pair of 95-mile-an-hour fastballs - one straight out to center field, the other an opposite-field drive to left. And then Sandoval added a third bomb against reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth inning.

Near their seats behind home plate after the game, Kitty and Bob Angell of Healdsburg stood and smiled long after Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt had retired Ramon Santiago for the final out.

Asked if they thought for a moment that the Giants could toy with Verlander in such a fashion, Kitty answered "yes" at exactly the same time Bob said "no."

Optimists and pessimists - the world, and the legion of Giants fans, is divided into those camps.

"I think we're gonna do it in four (games)," Kitty Angell said. "I mean, this team has come together at the right time, and it is magic."

Aubrey Huff, a veteran of the 2010 World Series run who entered Wednesday's game as a pinch hitter, feels the magic. But unlike Kitty Angell, he isn't about to predict a four-game sweep.

"It seems like things are starting to fall our way a little bit, the way it did in 2010," Huff said. "But again, that can change in a hurry."

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.