Giants capture Game 1 of World Series from Tigers behind Pablo Sandoval, Barry Zito

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Pablo Sandoval went 4-for-4 with three home runs and Barry Zito yielded just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings as the Giants rocked and rolled to an 8-3 victory over the Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday evening in San Francisco.

Sandoval smashed a solo shot to right-center field in the bottom of the first inning, a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the third and another solo bomb to right-center in the bottom of the fifth. He’s just the fourth player to homer three times in a World Series game — joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols — and his three-homer performance was only the second such feat in the 12-year history of AT&T Park (regular season games included).

This from a guy who had just 12 regular-season home runs this year and a mediocre .812 career postseason OPS before the night began. Sandoval is now batting .270/.386/.778 in these 2012 playoffs.

The Tigers, meanwhile, couldn’t figure out Zito and had an even tougher time against Tim Lincecum, who struck out five of the seven batters he faced in relief while surrendering no hits and zero walks.

Detroit starter Justin Verlander entered his Game 1 outing boasting a 0.74 ERA in 24-plus innings this postseason, but he was lifted in the top of the fifth inning after giving up five earned runs on six hits.

The Giants will look to go up 2-0 on Thursday night when Madison Bumgarner faces Doug Fister.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.