Pablo Sandoval, Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols.
One of these things is not like the others but all four of them have one staggering statistical achievement in common. By clouting home runs in his first three at-bats in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, Sandoval joined this trio of all-time greats as one of the only players with a three-homer game in the Fall Classic.
Ruth, Jackson and Pujols are among the greatest stars of their or any generation. It's no slight to say that the San Francisco Giants' rotund third baseman doesn't normally travel in such circles. But he is forever linked to them now. Perhaps even more importantly, the Giants grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven World Series.
"It's exciting. It's exciting to be a part of the history." Sandoval told Erin Andrews of FOX on the field after the Giants' 8-3 win. When you're a little kid, you dream of playing in the World Series and your dream comes true."
With two outs in the home first, Sandoval drove a 95-mph fastball from Tigers ace Justin Verlander into the center-field seats to stake the Giants to a 1-0 lead. After Verlander and Giants starter Barry Zito traded zeroes in the second, Sandoval (or Pandoval, according to Tim McCarver) came back to the plate. Marco Scutaro had just driven in the Giants' second run of the game. More were coming. After an awkward mound visit by the Tigers' pitching coach, Verlander started Sandoval off with a pair of 86-mph change-ups. The third pitch of the at-bat was another fastball. It resulted in another home run, a two-run shot to left.
After the second blast, Verlander's expression said it all. WOW.
To the surprise of everyone, including his MLB peers, Sandoval wasn't done yet. Facing Al Alburquerque in the fifth after Verlander had been pulled for a pinch-hitter, the 26-year-old slugger crushed his third homer of the night to center, pushing the lead to 6-0.
Scutaro padded the Giants' lead further before Sandoval's next at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. With the Giants' hottest non-Ailuropoda batter on second (and Pagan newly-arrived in the dugout with the team's seventh run), Sandoval got wood to the ball once again. This time, it stayed in the park. Sandoval drove a fastball back up the middle for a single.
"Well, he hit one down, he hit a couple up. He just had one of those big nights. He's an outstanding hitter, obviously, and he just had one of those nights where anything we threw, he hit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters after the game, via ASAP Sports. "I think you certainly tip your hat to what Sandoval did tonight. You can't sit up here and say what he did tonight was a fluke. I mean, it was unbelievable. The guy had one of those unbelievable World Series nights that they'll be talking about for years. So I tip my hat to him."
Pulled for Joaquin Arias in the top of the ninth in a defensive substitution, he would finish the night 4 for 4 with 3 home runs, 1 single, 4 runs, 3 RBI and 13 total bases.
Ruth has two 3-homer games to his name. He hurt the St. Louis Cardinals for three home runs in Game 4 of the 1926 World Series. He got to the Redbirds' pitchers for a trio of four-base hits again in Game 4 of the '28 World Series. Jackson famously took Los Angeles Dodgers' hurlers deep three times (on three consecutive pitches) in Game 6 of the 1977 series in the Bronx. In the 2011 Fall Classic, Pujols joined the Bambino and Mr. October by way of a three-homer game against the Texas Rangers in Game 4. When Pujols joined such illustrious company the reaction was more like a coronation than a coronary.
When Sandoval pulled off the trick, the reaction was pure Pandamonium.