KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hunter Pence herded his teammates into the center of a clubhouse that was ready to pop. As the Giants hollered and hugged, he kept asking: “Is everybody here? Is everybody here?”
They were, wildly shaking their bottles of bubbly. And with that, Pence shouted the command.
Suddenly, the spray of success soaked this bunch of World Series winners from San Francisco. Pence was in the middle of it all, as always, and Pablo Sandoval wasn’t far behind Wednesday night after the Giants beat Kansas City 3-2 in Game 7.
Pence and Panda, champions again.
A day earlier, after the Royals romped 10-0 to force a deciding game, Sandoval didn’t seem concerned. As he bopped out of the locker room, he shouted to his pal Pence, “Love you, my ninja!”
Popular for their personalities, they endeared themselves to Giants fans with their production against the Royals.
Pence hit .444, scoring seven runs and driving in five. In the winner-take-all game, the all-out outfielder got two hits and scored a run.
Sandoval batted .429 in the Series, scoring six and driving in four. He went 3 for 3 in Game 7, doubled and scored twice.
The 2012 World Series MVP was cheered on by four fans near the San Francisco dugout wearing giant Panda heads — he’s nicknamed Kung Fu Panda.
Whether Sandoval’s boosters get to see him play at AT&T Park next year is uncertain. At 28, the two-time All-Star third baseman can become a free agent and cash in big.
“As far as what happens, I don’t know,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s obvious I love this kid, too.”
“I’ve had him since he came up, and hopefully something gets done. But these are things that take care of themselves in the winter,” he said.
Sandoval completed a three-year contract that guaranteed him $17.15 million, and the Giants have a history of paying to keep their core together.
Pence was in the first season of a $90 million, five-year deal, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, limited to one postseason appearance after struggling with his effectiveness, has one season remaining in a $35 million, two-year contract.
Sandoval earned his third championship ring. In 2010, he lost his spot to Juan Uribe in the World Series and played just once in the five-game win over Texas. In 2012, he hit three home runs against Detroit in the opener.
“Well, his role in the first one, it diminished. We put Juan at third base,” Bochy said. “But the last two, you know, great players, they have a way of rising to the occasion.”
“He did that. You could see a difference in Pablo once his postseason started. His focus, his third base play was as good as I’ve seen from any third baseman. That’s what I’m proud of about him, is how he made himself such a good defender,” he said.
Sandoval wound up with the final ball, catching a foul popup by Salvador Perez with a runner on third base to end it. As he gathered underneath it, Sandoval said there was no time to consider what the grab would mean.
“You don’t think,” he said. “You just catch it.”