The Giants third baseman ended one of the worst slumps in recent memory.
When Pablo Sandoval signed a minor league deal with the Giants on July 22, he acknowledged that he made a mistake by leaving for Boston via free agency — a five-year, $95 million deal signed in November 2014 — in the first place. In rejoining the organization that signed him out of Venezuela in 2003, the 30-year-old third baseman was supposed to get his career back on track following three years of subpar play, injuries and humiliation.
It hasn't quite happened that way yet, but on Friday night, Sandoval did break free of a 0-for-39 slump—the longest in Giants history for a position player since the team moved to San Francisco—with a three-run homer off White Sox starter Lucas Giolito, helping San Francisco to a 9-2 win in Chicago.
Since collecting hits off the Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke in his first two plate appearances on August 25— Arizona's second win in what became a 13-game winning streak—he had finished out that game with an 0-for-2, started 10 games while going 0-for-35 with four walks, and then struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance on Wednesday against the Rockies.
Fortunately for Sandoval, he didn't quite get to the futility record for non-pitchers. Former teammate Eugenio Velez went 46 at-bats—nine with the Giants in 2010, 37 with the Dodgers the following year—to break the record of 45 shared by the Brooklyn Dodgers' Bill Bergen (1909), the Padres' Dave Campbell (1973) and the Brewers' Craig Counsell (2011). Milwaukee Braves pitcher Bob Buhl holds the overall record, going 0-for-87 from September 1, 1961 to May 8, 1963.
Due to the streak, Sandoval has had an even rougher go in his second round with the Giants (.190/.246/.286 with two homers in 113 PA) than in his final stand with the Red Sox (.212/.269/.354 with four homers in 108 PA). After slashing .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers in 505 plate appearances for the Sox in 2015, he was limited to three games last year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left labrum. He never approached the quality of play that he showed with the Giants from 2008-14, making two All-Star teams and playing for three championship teams; he was also the MVP of the 2012 World Series. The Red Sox designated him for assignment on July 14 and released him five days later, still owing him roughly $49.8 million through the end of 2019. They'll pay all but a prorated share of the minimum salary over the remainder of the deal, if Sandoval is on a big league roster. That's no given, as Sandoval has been a combined 2.5 wins below replacement level over the life of the deal.
Just as it is for the Giants (56-87), it's a lost season for Sandoval. But he got that dreaded 0-fer off his back. Velez, who’s still playing in the Mexican League but hasn’t played stateside since 2015, disappeared from the majors before ending his slump.