WASHINGTON (AP) — Yes, Pablo Sandoval is 34 and in his 14th year in the majors, a two-time All-Star and a World Series MVP. He still needed to prove himself in spring training to earn a roster spot with the Atlanta Braves and a $1 million, one-year deal.
He’s sure paying dividends quickly.
The guy affectionately known as Kung Fu Panda hit his second pinch-hit homer in a week Wednesday, driving a two-run shot to the deepest part of the ballpark off a Washington reliever who took over after Stephen Strasburg’s six scoreless innings and lifting the Braves to a 2-0 victory over the Nationals for a doubleheader sweep.
“I don’t want to lie,” said Sandoval, who hit three homers in one game for the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 Fall Classic. “It’s one of those moments when you get goose bumps.”
Atlanta entered the day 0-4 but got headed in the right direction during the opener, when Ronald Acuña Jr. led the way with a double and a pair of singles to help the Braves win 7-6.
Sandoval signed a minor league contract in January with the Braves, then earned a job, which sure looks like a wise choice by the club.
“No situation’s going to be too big,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Not only in that role, but in the clubhouse, too. This guy is awesome to have on your team.”
Sandoval came off the bench to homer on opening day, then did the same Wednesday. He turned on a 96 mph fastball from Tanner Rainey (0-1) with a 3-2 count, sending it more than 400 feet following Dansby Swanson’s two-out single in the seventh and final inning.
“I missed my spot,” Rainey said, “and he didn’t miss his swing.”
The righty hadn’t faced hitters since the exhibition finale in Florida nine days earlier. A coronavirus outbreak that hit the Nationals kept them from…