By John Perrotto
SAN FRANCISCO_ Long after his spectacular World Series debut had ended and he had concluded his post-game workout and training room sessions, Freddy Sanchez reminisced about his days with the Pirates.
In particular, the San Francisco Giants’ second baseman though back to 2006 when he appeared in his first of three consecutive All-Star Games, having the added bonus of the game being played at PNC Park, then won the National League batting title on the last day of the season. They are certainly two moments to remember.
However, PNC Park seemed every bit as far away on Wednesday night as the 2,258 miles that separate it from AT&T Park.
Sanchez went 4-for-5 with three doubles and three RBIs to lead the Giants to an 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers and Cliff Lee, who had gone 7-0 in eight starts over the last two postseasons, in Game 1 of the World Series.
Sanchez became the first player in World Series history to hit doubles in each of his first three plate appearances and tied the Giants’ record for most hits in a Fall Classic game that was set in 1951 by Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who incidentally threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Sanchez said. “To think about all of the great players who have played in the World Series and then a little guy like me is able to do something none of them ever accomplished. It’s hard to believe. But you know what the best thing is? We won the game. We’re up 1-0 in the World Series.”
It is understandable that Sanchez would put winning ahead of personal goals. He had plenty of personal success during six seasons with the Pirates from 2004-09 but was just part of a string of losing seasons has reached 18 in a row. Now he is on a club that won the National League West, dispatched Atlanta and Philadelphia in the first two rounds of the postseason and is three victories away from becoming the first Giants team to win a World Series since the franchise moved west from New York in 1958.
“There’s nothing like winning,” Sanchez said. “It just makes everything better. I had a great time in Pittsburgh and I love the city and the people but the losing can beat you down at times. When you’re winning, every day is exciting.”
Sanchez hit .292 with seven home runs and 47 RBIs in 111 games in his first full season with the Giants but it was frustrating at times. He missed all of spring training while recovering off-season knee surgery then was bothered by a sore shoulder periodically throughout the year.
However, since going 2-for-16 against the Braves in the NLDS, Sanchez is a combined 13-for-30 in the NLCS and World Series.
“That first series, I was so jumpy early on,” Sanchez admitted. “I was in the postseason for the first time and I was trying to do too much, overswinging at a lot of pitches. I’ve calmed down a lot and also made some adjustments with my swing.”
As Giants hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens said, “It isn’t a case of Freddy being locked in but being REALLY locked in right now.”
Yet while Sanchez is trying to live within the moment in his first World Series, he couldn’t help thinking back to his time with the Pirates with just the slightest prompting.
“I really wonder what a World Series would be like in Pittsburgh,” Sanchez said. “I remember how much the city was buzzing for the All-Star Game and I’m sure it would be even bigger for a World Series. Pittsburgh fans are great. I’ll never forgot how wonderful the people there treated my family and I. People ask me all the time if I’m glad I’m out of Pittsburgh and I tell them I’ll never say anything bad about Pittsburgh. The only downside to playing there is we didn’t win. I just wish we could have won so Pirates’ fans could feel like our fans here feel like now. I wish they could experience this kind of excitement.”
John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports. He is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com