SAN FRANCISCO — “What I do?” Pablo Sandoval asked reporters waiting to interview him in the Giants’ clubhouse. Big grin on his face. Like he didn’t know what he did.
He knew, all right. He went 3 for 5 with a home run and five RBIs during the Giants’ 13-8 win against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sandoval had one hit in his previous 19 plate appearances when he stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the top of the fifth inning and hit a home run. He was in a major slump, and so were the Giants. They had lost five of their previous six games while scoring only 10 runs during that stretch. Sunday’s game was important. They needed a win to avoid falling to .500, the definition of mediocre. They needed offense.
They got it from the Panda.
The home run came after Sandoval had sprained his left thumb making a diving catch at third base. He refused to leave the game.
When Sandoval came to the plate, Brandon Crawford was on first base, Brandon Belt was on second and no one was out. The pitcher was Cardinals reliever John Brebbia, who took the loss. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants starter, got the win.
The count to Sandoval was 1-2. At the time, the Giants were losing 4-3. “(Brebbia) threw me a first-pitch slider,” Sandoval said. “Second pitch, he threw me the high fastball. I was thinking he was going to try do it again.”
Brebbia did it again. The pitch was a 96-mph fastball high and tight. Sandoval is a high-ball hitter. “He left it there right in the happy zone,” Sandoval said happily, “and I hit it.”
Into McCovey Cove, a three-run homer. The Giants led 6-4.
That was the score in bottom of the sixth when Sandoval came to the plate again. The bases were loaded with two outs. The pitcher was reliever Greg Holland. Again, Sandoval was behind in the count 1-2.
“He threw me a breaking ball, then a fastball that I put a good swing on,” Sandoval said of a foul ball. “And I put in my mind, if I get to two strikes, he probably is going to throw his pitch. It’s a slider.”
It sure was. The pitch was an 89-mph slider.
“It was a good pitch for him,” Sandoval said. “I just swung.”
The pitch was low and away. Sandoval is a low-ball hitter in addition to being a high-ball hitter. They throw it, he hits it. The pitch would have hit the dirt, but it hit the barrel of Sandoval’s bat and the ball landed in left field and two runners scored. The Giants led 8-4.
“That’s Pablo,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He has got a knack of putting the ball in play.”
Most of the Giants hitters did Sunday. Six players recorded at least two hits. In total, the Giants recorded 17 base knocks.
“It got contagious,” Bochy said. “We found a way to get those hits with runners in scoring position. Trust me, they’re trying. When you get in the rut we have been in, sometimes they start pressing.”