The least valuable player in baseball before tonight according to FanGraphs: Aubrey Huff. He was hitting like a circa-'78 shortstop while playing a position at which a player is expected to hit. That's a rough combination.
The plot thickened, too, when you considered that the Giants had a first baseman with a .470 on-base percentage in triple-A. Brandon Belt had a sluggish start in the majors, but he was doing everything that could be expected of him in Fresno. It would appear that a switch might be imminent. When Buster Posey and Mike Fontenot went down in the same game, it was Belt who came up along with another catcher. The Giants needed offense, and it made sense that they'd turn to Belt.
Yeah, about that. Giants manager Bruce Bochy likes to wait veteran slumps out. Like, more than you know. Veterans have done it before, and they can do it again. You just have to give them a few months. Maybe a year or two. Just keep playing them.
Think that's hyperbole?
Those were the numbers that Randy Winn put up in 2009. He was a right fielder. He was the team's #3 hitter. I'm just riffing here, but right fielders who hit third in the order usually have more than two home runs over a full season. And if they don't, there's usually some discussion of an alternate option. The Giants had corner outfielders doing well in the minors. But Winn was just about to break out of his slump. Any day now.
So while it might seem as if Huff's job was being threatened by Belt, it really wasn't. After being recalled on May 26th, Belt started his first game on the 29th in left field. The Giants were going to live and die with Aubrey Huff at first for quite a while, for better or for worse.
On Thursday night, it was for better. For much, much better. Aubrey Huff repaid his manager's faith by hitting three home runs as the Giants cruised to victory against the St. Louis Cardinals, winning 12-7 to complete the series win in a four-game set in St. Louis.
The game started with the Cardinals scoring three runs in the first three innings -- usually enough to beat the Giants over a span of two or three games. Allen Craig doubled home a run in the first, and Colby Rasmus tripled home two in the third.
Rookie starter Lance Lynn was perfect through 3-1/3 innings before he hit Miguel Tejada in the helmet with a breaking ball. Huff then launched a no-doubter into right-center field to cut the lead to 3-2.
The sixth inning was when it started to fall apart for the Cardinals, and it was evident from the first batter of the inning. Pitcher Jonathan Sanchez hit a deep fly that fell in between Craig and Rasmus, neither of whom seemed too interested in catching it. Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez, and Huff all contributed an RBI in the inning to give the Giants a 5-3 lead.
The seventh didn't go much better for the Cards, as rookie Maikel Cleto couldn't overcome a wild streak, walking the first two hitters of the inning. Torres doubled home a run, and Sanchez hit a three-run homer to give the Giants a 9-3 lead. Huff followed with his second homer of the night, another no-doubter to right field.
Rasmus brought the Cardinals within striking distance in the bottom of the seventh, clubbing a grand slam on an 0-2 count. Down just three runs, the Cards had a sliver of hope. But in the top of the ninth, Huff took left-hander Brian Tallet deep for his third home run of the night, this one a doubter that just cleared the right-field fence. Huff's six RBI tied a career high, and while he might have won the game for the Giants, he probably saved his job for at least a month. Maybe two.
With the optimism that comes with a night like Thursday night, though, that might not be a bad thing.