SAN FRANCISCO — AT&T Park exploded Wednesday night when Pablo Sandoval hit his historic third home run in the opening game of the World Series. Then Sandoval’s cell phone blew up.
“Three-hundred text messages, man,” a grinning Sandoval said Thursday prior to Game Two in the aftermath of just the fifth three-homer game in Series history.
“So excited how the people who watched pay attention to all the things in the game, all my friends back home, family, just excited to be part of this,” Sandoval said. “I still can’t believe it. In the morning when I wake up, all the stuff, my friends keep texting me. But you have to realize what’s going on right now in your life, so you have to keep your head up and keep focused.”
Still, that can’t be easy when you’re hearing from the president of your home country.
Sandoval is one of a record nine Venezuelans in the Series so President Hugo Chavez has a keen interest anyway. Then Kung Fu Panda started making his big swings.
“There goes the third! Pablo makes history,” Chavez tweeted in Spanish during Game One.
“When I was hitting the fourth at-bat, he was like, ‘I’m just going to say congratulations to Pablo, but I’m just going to see the four homers right now,’” Sandoval said. “So that was funny.”
It’s been a huge year for Sandoval’s home country with Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown for the Tigers, Johan Santana’s no-hitter for the Mets and Felix Hernadez’s perfect game for the Mariners.
“I’m so happy for all things happening to Venezuelan players right now,” Sandoval said. “... Excited how we’re working hard to get all these things together. You have to realize in your life, you have to be happy for all the work you do to get here.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland on struggling former closer Jose Valverde, who gave up two runs on four hits in one-third of an inning in Game One:
“Well, I certainly don’t think he was bad last night. He wasn’t real good. I think the biggest thing with Valverde is the same thing bit him last night a little bit that’s bitten him all year where he’s been too much in the middle of the plate.
“Some people say he’s not throwing the split enough; some people have all kind of answers as to what’s been wrong. But from what I see, he was 92, 93 [mph] last night with a couple 94s, I believe, so I think it’s just a matter of locating his fastball and keeping it out of the middle of the plate.”
An update on the two prominent ex-Bisons in the Series:
• Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro broke the franchise record in Game One by extending his postseason hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single in the third inning. The record of 10 was set by Cody Ross in 2010.
Scutaro has joined Mets catcher Mike Piazza (2000) as the only players to have at least a 20-game hitting streak during the regular season and a 10-gamer in that year’s postseason. Scutaro finished the regular season on his 20-game run, batting .436 in that stretch (34-78).
• When Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta homered in the ninth inning of Game One, he became the fourth Tigers player to homer in his first World Series game — joining Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg (1934), Bruce Campbell (1940) and pitcher Mickey Lolich (1968).
The New York Mets announced Thursday that Wally Backman will manage their new Triple-A team next season in Las Vegas. Backman managed the Buffalo Bisons to a 67-76 record this season, his first as a Triple-A skipper, but had indicated at the end of the season he was hesitant to move to the Pacific Coast League because of its arduous travel demands. The Mets have shifted operations to Vegas after the Bisons declined to renew the teams’ player development contract after the season.
The New York Daily News reported Thursday that Philadelphia had interest in hiring Backman to manage Lehigh Valley after IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg was promoted to the big-league staff but Backman stayed with the Mets.
Thursday night’s game came on the 26th anniversary of the famous Bill Buckner game won by Backman’s Mets over the Boston Red Sox in Game Six of the 1986 Fall Classic. Backman made the first out of the bottom of the 10th inning before the Mets rallied for three runs and a 6-5 victory after being down to their last strike. They won Game Seven two nights later.
The only lineup change for either team in Game Two saw the Tigers put Gerald Laird at catcher in place of Alex Avila. ... Tim Lincecum’s relief appearance for the Giants made Game One just the second game in Series history to feature three former Cy Young Award winners. Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Barry Zito joined Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton and the Baltimore tandem of Mike Flanagan and Jim Palmer, who pitched in 1983. ... Zito’s RBI single in Game One made the Giants the first team in postseason history to get an RBI from their pitchers in four straight games. Only the 1970 Baltimore Orioles (in the ALCS against Minnesota) had done that in three straight. ... Good omen for the Giants? Home teams winning Game One have won the Series title 11 straight times, dating to Atlanta’s series-opening win in 1992 over Toronto (the Blue Jays came back to win the series in six games).