Vicious Panda mauls Tigers in Series opener

AT&T PARK — The Giants used momentum from their NLCS miracle to do something they hadn’t done all postseason – take down a formidable opponent and win a Game 1. And it wasn’t even close.

In yet another improbable lockdown performance, Barry Zito pitched 5-2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Detroit Tigers as the Giants beat the Tigers 8-3 to take Game 1 of the 2012 World Series.

As impressive as Zito was, though, it was Pablo Sandoval’s three home runs that did in Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander and led the Giants to a momentum-seizing victory.

San Francisco faced the tough task of trying to hit against Verlander, the reigning American League Cy Young winner and 2011 American League MVP. Coming in to tonight’s game, Verlander was a perfect 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA in this postseason.

Verlander started game five of the Division Series against the A’s, pitching a complete game to help eliminate Oakland. He helped the Tigers sweep the favored Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

The Giants, however, were anything but intimidated.

Pablo Sandoval got his team on the board in the bottom of the first with a line-drive home run to center field.

The Giants would break it open in the third inning. With two outs, Angel Pagan would single. NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro would follow it up with a single to center field. Austin Jackson would bobble the ball, allowing Pagan to score.

Then Pablo Sandoval would do what only three other Giants players have ever done in a World Series game – hit another home run. With Scutaro on-base, Pablo blasted another shot into the left field bleachers and giving the Giants a 4-0 lead.

Brandon Belt led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a walk then moved to second on Brandon Crawford’s ground out.

Barry Zito would then do something that the Giants starting pitching has become known for lately – help his own cause with an RBI single. This marks the fourth game in a row where a Giants starting pitcher has recorded an RBI.

With one out in the fifth inning, Sandoval then became just the fourth player in World Series history to hit three home runs in a game, drilling a solo shot to center field. He joins Babe Ruth (who did it twice), Albert Pujols, and Reggie Jackson as the only other players in Major League history to hit three homers in a World Series game.

But the offense wasn’t done beating up Detroit pitching. In the seventh, Pagan and Scutaro — two veterans making their World Series debuts — would start yet another rally.

With one out, Pagan would double, and Scutaro would single him home. Sandoval would collect his fourth hit of the night, a single to center field, and Posey would single home Scutaro.

Barry Zito made sure his first career World Series start was a good one, as he kept his team in the game for 5-2/3 innings.

Zito allowed only six hits, including the RBI single by Miguel Cabrera to score the Tigers only run. The crowd of 42,855 showed their support for #75 by chanting “Barry! Barry!” at several key points throughout the game – when he took the mound, after his RBI single, with two outs in the fifth, and again with one out and a man on in the sixth.

Zito left the game in the sixth to a standing ovation, and tipped his cap to the roaring crowd as he headed into the dugout.

Tim Lincecum threw 2-1/3 innings of perfect ball — with five strikeouts — before giving way to Jose Mijares to start the ninth. Mijares would coax Prince Fielder into a groundout, before yielding to George Kontos.

Delmon Young would get a base hit through the right side off Kontos before Jhonny Peralta drilled a long home run to center over the outstretched glove of Angel Pagan to plate a pair. Jeremy Affeldt would replace Kontos and get Ramon Santiago to ground into a force out to end the game.