'He called it': Panda follows boast with blast

Giants club 4 home runs to sink Felix, Mariners in finale

April 5th, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- Each of the Giants' four home runs in their 10-1 rout of the Mariners on Wednesday proved to be distinctive. None, however, was as special as the one by .
It was a Splash Hit, touching down in San Francisco Bay as if an astronaut were aboard. It was an act of fulfillment, given Sandoval's pregame prediction that he would hit one out in his first start of the season. And it was hit by Sandoval, who remains beloved by Giants fans for his association with the franchise's World Series-winning clubs and his enduring charisma.

"I ain't gonna lie. He called it," right fielder said. "He said he was going to hit a homer today."
That was an ambitious boast, since Mariners ace , a six-time All-Star and the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner, was on the mound. But Sandoval, 3-for-8 with two homers lifetime against his fellow Venezuelan Hernandez, felt confident. Said Sandoval, "I was telling the guys I faced Felix before. I had a feeling that we were going to come to the field to do some damage today, as a team and as an offense."
Sandoval was in the lineup -- filling in at third base for -- primarily because manager Bruce Bochy wants none of his reserves to get stale sitting on the bench. Keeping Sandoval sharp is a priority, since he'll likely enter games in critical pinch-hitting situations when he's not receiving on occasional start at third or first base. He's also the Giants' emergency No. 3 catcher.
"I've talked to Pablo about this, and he's good with it," Bochy said. "He brings it every day."
Sandoval's homer was the biggest hit in a huge five-run fifth inning for the Giants, who bore no resemblance to the team that finished last in the Major Leagues in home runs last season.

, replacing injured (right thumb sprain) in the lineup, turned on the shower of power with a second-inning drive. It was his first home run since Sept. 13, 2016, a span of 338 at-bats. It was a reward of sorts for Hernandez. Having accumulated more plate appearances last year (348) without hitting a home run, he lifted weights aggressively during the offseason and added 10 pounds of muscle.

, batting .353, opened the big fifth with an opposite-field homer -- a sure sign that he's swinging well.
Sandoval delivered the next homer, his first Splash Hit since May 12, 2013, against the Braves and his eighth overall. Asked if he knew the identity of the only Giants hitter who has more Splash Hits, Sandoval said, "Number 25." That would be Barry Bonds, of course, who has 35.
Then came 's clout into the right-field seats, complementing Sandoval's homer to form the Giants' first back-to-back jacks of the season.

It marked the first time the Giants slugged three home runs in a single inning since June 2, 2016, at Atlanta. They hadn't hit three homers in an inning at home since May 7, 2007, against the Mets. And they hadn't accumulated four homers in a game since Aug. 28, 2016.

The beneficiary of all this offense was , who overcame a tweaked ankle early in the game to last six innings. He allowed eight hits and Seattle's lone run.
Defense stands tall: Though the Giants' offense hit double-digits, defense made the difference early in the game. Right fielder McCutchen reminded observers that he's a multidimensional performer who the Giants acquired not just for his ability to produce runs, but also to prevent them as he ran down 's third-inning drive to right-center field with two out and runners on the corners. That preserved a 4-0 lead. McCutchen's grab had a 55 percent catch probability and earned a three-star rating, according to Statcast™. More >

"If you're not getting hits, you want to try to take them away," said McCutchen, who's batting .083. "I was positioned well. All I had to do was try to get the ball."
First things first: Though the Giants' power hitting ultimately dominated the scene, they established command with their homerless first-inning outburst, good for three runs, against Hernandez. After Sandoval drew a bases-loaded walk to produce the first run, Belt scored on a wild pitch and Crawford lifted a sacrifice fly.

Following Thursday's scheduled off-day, the Giants will oppose the archrival Dodgers for the second weekend in a row. Left-hander , who pitched respectably (five innings, three hits, five runs, three earned) last Saturday at Dodger Stadium, will start at 7:15 p.m. PT on Friday in the series opener at AT&T Park.