Detroit, Michigan: San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval was a unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player of the World Series thanks largely to the Venezuelan slugger’s powerful performance with a bat.
But the 26-year-old heavyweight nicknamed “Kung Fu Panda” also made a nimble fielding move to deny Detroit a key run on Sunday in the Giants’ 4-3 victory to complete a sweep in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven final.
“This is one of the keys,” Sandoval said. “You fight and you win. You do a lot of things to win that game.”
In the World Series, Sandoval batted 8-for-16 with a double and three home runs, all in the opening game. For the playoff title run, he went 24-for-66 with five doubles, six homers and 13 runs batted in over 16 games.
“He got hot at the right time for us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I couldn’t be happier, prouder for him.”
But in the third inning, Sandoval charged toward a bunt by Detroit’s Quintin Berry and despite having to duck low to evade Matt Cain as the pitcher dove over him, he made a critical throw to first base to put out Berry.
The next Tiger batter, Miguel Cabrera, blasted a two-run homer that gave Detroit a 2-1 lead, the only lead they would enjoy in the entire World Series.
It would have been a three-run homer and a 3-1 lead without Sandoval’s acrobatic move.
“It was huge for Pablo to make an unbelievable play like that,” Cain said. “It’s one of the reasons we call him ‘Kung Fu Panda.’ It ended up being really big. Just being 2-1 in the game right there changes the momentum a little bit - 3-1 looks a lot worse.
The big man made agility look easy.
“It was a tough play,” Sandoval said. “I just tried to make a play. I called it late, but he got out of the way so quickly so we made the play easily.”
Sandoval sees himself as somewhat like the character Po from “Kung Fu Panda” with his happy-go-lucky manner.
“When I got that nickname, I thought, ‘It’s me.’ The character is me,” said Sandoval. “I have fun, like a little kid, fight for everything, never lose faith. It’s important when you have teammates thinking you are that guy.”
It’s also important to be serious about certain things, such as maintaining a workable playing weight and bouncing back from injury and surgery as well as demotion from the starting lineup in 2010, a year when the Giants beat Texas in the World Series.
“I know it was a tough time in 2010 when he got relegated to the bench. He really wanted to shine on stage,” Bochy said. “He’s a great talent and we got him hot at the right time. And we needed him.”
Sandoval enjoyed the game of his life with three homers in the Series opener, a rare feat.
“I still can’t believe that game,” Sandoval said. “It’s the game of your dreams. You don’t want to wake up.”
But the dreams came only after Sandoval had coped with hard realities the past two years.
“It’s up and down in your career,” he said. “I got surgery. I lost muscle. I lost strength. Strength came back at the right moment. All the pressure I put to get my strength back, things came together at the right time.
“I’m happy. I learned from my mistakes. When you see the results, you look more mature and you put all the pieces together. You learn from the things that happen in your career. You never give up.”
San Francisco 4 Detroit 3
(San Francisco wins series 4-0)