Pablo Sandoval’s three-homer game is most impressive in postseason history

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Before Pablo Sandoval got to Justin Verlander twice and Al Alburquerque once for his first ever three-game game in the World Series opener, eight players in major league history had hit three homers in a postseason game:

Babe Ruth (NYY) – Game 4, 1926 WS – 3-for-3, 4 RBI, 2 BB
Babe Ruth (NYY) – Game 4, 1928 WS – 3-for-5, 3 RBI
Bob Robertson (Pit) – Game 2, 1971 NLCS – 4-for-5, 5 RBI, 2B
Reggie Jackson (NYY) – Game 6, 1977 WS – 3-for-3, 5 RBI, BB
George Brett (KC) – Game 3, 1978 ALCS – 3-for-5, 3 RBI
Adam Kennedy (ANA) – Game 5, 2002 ALCS – 4-for-4, 5 RBI
Adrian Beltre (Tex) – Game 4, 2011 ALDS – 3-for-4, 3 RBI
Albert Pujols (StL) – Game 3, 2011 WS – 5-for-6, 6 RBI

Kennedy may yet rank as the most unlikely of the three-homer games, considering that he’s not a power hitter at all. He’s homered once in his 24 other career postseason games.

However, once factoring in the quality of the competition, Sandoval’s seems just as unlikely. And it’s the most impressive of this whole bunch.

– Including the postseason, Verlander had given up 21 homers in 262 2/3 innings this season or one every 12 2/3 innings. Sandoval hit two in four innings off him tonight.

– Albuquerque has never allowed a homer in 56 2/3 innings in the regular season. He did surrender one to Robinson Cano in the ALDS a year ago.

– No one homers in AT&T Park. The Giants hit 31 and allowed 53 there this year. Sandoval was the first person to hit three homers there since Kevin Elster did it in the park’s inaugural game 12 years ago. Only four players hit two homers in a game there this year, and the lone Giant to do it was Sandoval.

Besides Sandoval, Brett probably had the toughest assignment in getting to three homers; he was facing Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter when he did in 1978. However, it was in a losing cause in the ALCS, so that costs him some points. Jackson’s three-homer game was more crucial, coming in a Game 6 that clinched the 1977 series for the Yankees. Pujols was the one player to hit three homers and still add two more hits.

But Sandoval’s game seems to me to the most impressive of the bunch. To get to those two pitchers in that ballpark in a World Series Game is maybe the highlight of the 2012 season to date.

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.