Sandoval leads Giants over Verlander, Tigers in Game 1

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Sandoval leads Giants over Verlander, Tigers in Game 1

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) With three mighty swings, Pablo Sandoval put the San Francisco Giants ahead in this World Series and put himself in a class with Mr. October.

Sandoval hit three home runs and joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only sluggers to do it in the Series, and the Giants jolted Justin Verlander the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Wednesday night in Game 1.

A rollicking AT&T Park crowd - a sea of black and orange outfits - roared as Sandoval connected in his first three at-bats. Popular in the Bay Area as the Kung Fu Panda for his roly-poly shape, he went 4 for 4 and drove in four runs. A Giant panda for sure.

Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner so dominant in this postseason, looked uncomfortable from the get-go and constantly pawed at the mound.

The final score raised a nagging question for manager Jim Leyland and his favored Tigers: Did too much rest after a playoff sweep of the Yankees mean too much rust?

Tagged by Sandoval for a solo shot in the first inning, Verlander could only mouth Wow!' after the Giants star launched a two-run drive in the third. Sandoval reprised his power show from this year's All-Star game, when his bases-loaded triple highlighted a five-run first inning against Verlander.

And if there was any doubt that Verlander was shaky, the best sign came in the fourth. That's when pitcher Barry Zito, a career .099 hitter, sliced an RBI single with two outs off the current AL MVP for a 6-0 lead.

The festive crowd stood and applauded when it was announced that Verlander was being pulled for a pinch hitter in the fifth. Sandoval gave them another reason to get up moments later when he hit a solo homer off reliever Al Alburquerque in the fifth, answering the cheers by waving his batting helmet in a curtain call.

Pujols homered three times last year, Jackson accomplished the feat in 1977 and Ruth did it in 1926 and again in 1928.

For good measure, Sandoval lined a single his last time up.

From start to finish, it was basically a perfect game by the Giants. Coming off a Game 7 win over St. Louis on Monday night, they looked totally fresh.

Zito shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI single in the sixth, and Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to prevent further damage.

NL championship series MVP Marco Scutaro hit RBI singles after doubles by Angel Pagan. NL batting champion Buster Posey contributed two hits and left fielder Gregor Blanco made diving catches to rob Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Game 2 is Thursday night, with Doug Fister starting for the Tigers against Madison Bumgarner.

The Tigers seemed out of sync in their first game following a five-game layoff. That was an issue in 2006, too, when Verlander and his teammates had nearly a week off before getting wiped out by the Cardinals.

ALCS MVP Delmon Young failed to run after a tapper in front of the plate that the Giants turned into a double play. The Giants, meanwhile, kept getting good bounces, with Pagan hitting a double that hopped off the third-base bag.

Pitching in San Francisco for the first time since 2008, Verlander scuffed at the rubber while warming up for the first inning, pulled off his glove after badly overthrowing a curve and kept taking deep breaths. He hardly resembled the guy who was 3-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three playoff starts this year.

Ever since two poor outings in the 2006 Series against St. Louis - punctuated by two throwing errors - Verlander has worked hard to harness his emotions and 100 mph in the early going.

Verlander was trying to settle in when Sandoval tagged him, pouncing on an 0-2 fastball and lining it into the front row over the center-field wall. Quite a start for the team that finished last in the majors in home runs.

Get this: It was the first three-homer game at the stadium originally known as Pac Bell Park since the very first one, when Kevin Elster did it for the Dodgers in 2000. Nope, not even home run king Barry Bonds had done this.

It was certainly a moment of retribution of Sandoval. He was benched during the 2010 World Series, his production and confidence down, his weight up. In the stands on this night, fans wearing furry panda hats celebrated with him.

Verlander got into trouble again the third, and pitching coach Jeff Jones strolled to the mound when the count went to 2-0 on Sandoval. Verlander stared at Jones and shook his head. On the next pitch, Verlander could do little but watch the ball sail into the front row in left.

To some, this looked somewhat similar to the 2010 Series opener. That day, the Giants beat up the supposedly unhittable Cliff Lee on their way to a five-game romp over Texas.

This how got it bad for the Tigers: Former closer Jose Valverde made his first appearance in 11 days. Leyland still isn't what he'll get from the struggling reliever.

Lincecum, meanwhile, retired seven straight batters and struck out five of them. The two-time Cy Young winner has embraced his new role in the bullpen.

Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth off mop-up reliever George Kontos.

NOTES: Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings was the only other player this year to homer twice in a game off Verlander. ... Willie Mays and fellow Giants Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry took part in the first-ball ceremony. ... Tigers great Al Kaline, now a team executive, watched Detroit take batting practice from behind the cage. ... The Game 1 winner has won eight of the last nine championships. ... Cabrera and Posey marked the first set of batting champs to face each other in the World Series since 1954 when it was Mays of the New York Giants and Bobby Avila of Cleveland. When Cabrera walked on a close full-count pitch, he playfully patted the Giants' All-Star catcher on his way to first base. ... Tigers bullpen catcher Jeff Kunkel wandered the stands well before the teams took the field for warmups, snapping pictures of the stadium and field with his cell phone. ... The Giants franchise played its 106th Series game, trailing only the Yankees (225) and Cardinals (112). The Dodgers are fourth with 105.

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Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."

Could the Bulls go after Chris Bosh for next season?

Could the Bulls go after Chris Bosh for next season?

The basketball world woke up Friday morning to a report from ESPN senior writer Marc Stein saying the Bulls may go after Chris Bosh for the 2017-18 NBA season.

It's surprising and intriguing for multiple reasons: 

1) Bosh was believed to have played his last days in the NBA due to blod clot issues.

2) The Bulls are at something of a franchise crossroads, sitting as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference following Thursday's games and still determining what the right step is for the near future and the long term. 

3) Bosh will be 33 in March and hasn't played in an NBA game in nearly a year (last appeared with the Heat Feb. 9, 2016).

But Stein said the Heat are not planning on waiving Bosh before March 1, so he wouldn't be eligible to join the roster of a playoff contender.

Stein then says: If Bosh does return to the hardwood, "word is that the Chicago Bulls are already plotting a run and will be at the front of the line to try to sign him."

Bosh is an 11-time All-Star who has averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game throughout his career. He helped the Heat win several titles as part of the Big Three with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Bosh was also just in Chicago visiting Wade earlier this month:

Could he form another Big Three with Wade and Jimmy Butler, this time in Chicago?

It's worth noting Wade just turned 35 earlier this week and will be in his 14th NBA season next year.