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Giants' Pablo Sandoval basks in glow of three-homer game

San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval smiles

San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval smiles as he waits to take batting practice before Game 2 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. (Oct. 25, 2012) Credit: AP

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day later, Pablo Sandoval felt the same as he did the night before.

"You know, I still can't believe it," the Giants third baseman said of his historic performance in Game 1 of the World Series.

Sandoval, known almost exclusively in the Bay Area as Kung Fu Panda, became the fourth player to hit three homers in a World Series game. Babe Ruth did it twice (1926, 1928) and Reggie Jackson (1977) and Albert Pujols (2011) are the others.

Sandoval said he awoke Thursday to about 300 text messages. Among those who recognized the Venezuelan for the achievement was the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who tweeted about it. "That was funny," Sandoval said.

His 2012 World Series experience couldn't have been more different from his previous Series, in 2010. He appeared only in Game 3, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout as the DH,

"It means a lot," Sandoval said moments after his three homers powered an 8-3 win over the Tigers. "In 2010 I didn't get to play too much, and you never know when it's going to happen again."

He said before Thursday night's Game 2 that the 2010 Series still was a good experience because he got a championship ring and learned to improve his work ethic. "Even though I don't play, you have to be happy," Sandoval said. "You know how many guys in the big leagues play for 20 years, 15 years, and don't get rings? Many guys, so I'm happy.''

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Sandoval responded to the benching appropriately, never pouting.

"I think that was a learning lesson for him," Bochy said Thursday. "I think he went home that winter and realized he's got to change some things, which he did, and bounced back and had a great year in 2011. I know he was disappointed he wasn't out there, and he became a better player because of it."

But not without obstacles. Sandoval went on the disabled list this May after fracturing the hamate bone in his left wrist, and the bone eventually was removed surgically. Coincidentally, his right hamate bone was removed in 2011, making him a rarity -- an athlete playing without a hamate bone in either wrist.

Sandoval was, to say the least, a long shot to join Ruth, Jackson and Pujols on baseball's Mount Rushmore for going deep three times in a World Series game. Sandoval had four homers in April, one each in May and June, two in July, none in August and four in the season's final month.

"It's tough when you lose strength in your hand," Sandoval said. "It happened to me last time, last year when I lost my hamate bone in my right hand. This year was different because I lost strength and I lost muscle in my hand. So I just tried to keep focused, don't lose the faith. I know that strength is going to come back, so it came back at the right time."

Weight is an always an issue for the 5-11, 240-pounder, and Bochy said shedding a few pounds should be an offseason priority for Sandoval.

"The weight thing, sure, it's something he's going to have to keep under control, and he knows it," Bochy said. "And this winter, he'll have to get back on track and come into spring training hopefully a little bit lighter."

Bochy paused briefly.

"But right now we like where he's at," he said to laughter.

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