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Take a breath: Huff's clutch hit big in rally

Take a breath: Huff's clutch hit big in rally

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ATLANTA -- Aubrey Huff waited almost 1,500 games and the better part of a decade for the type of opportunity he had Sunday in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Without a doubt, his clutch two-out single to drive in the tying run and continue the game-winning rally in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Turner Field made the wait well worth it for the Giants' veteran first baseman.

The Giants had just seen their one-run lead evaporate with Eric Hinske's two-run pinch-homer in the bottom of the eighth, taking the Giants' unofficial slogan -- Giants Baseball: Torture -- to a new level.


And, thanks to his teammates keeping the ninth alive, Huff had a chance to help turn this particular bout with torture into October ecstasy.

"You know, sitting at home for nine years watching these playoffs and stuff happen, it's never over until it's over," Huff said. "And we battled. That's exactly what the torture comes from. It's never easy."

Though he had just two hits in his first 11 postseason at-bats, Huff had his mind on getting it done even as No. 2 hitter Freddy Sanchez pulled his own clutch maneuver with a single up the middle to keep the Giants alive.

Huff, the Giants' No. 3 hitter, had a little more time to think about the situation as the Braves made the switch to left-hander Mike Dunn to face the left-handed-swinging Huff -- who hit lefties equally as well as right-handers over the course of the regular season.

"You know, you can get a little nervous, especially on deck when they're making the switch," said Huff, who had singled off Dunn in the eighth inning of Game 1. "But once I stepped in the box, it was actually pretty calm. You have to be. I find if you stress out too much you get a little jumpy, all year long. Everything's a rollover.

"So try to breathe, and take my at-bat that I've taken all year."

After taking a 95-mph strike on the first pitch, Huff breathed new life into the Giants with a sinking liner to right field that dropped in front of Jason Heyward, allowing Travis Ishikawa to score the tying run from second with ease.

"It was a pretty good pitch," said Huff, who added he was kicking himself a bit when he took the first strike right down the middle. "I just kind of hit it off the end a tad enough to where it could get down. When I hit it, it was the longest medium fly ball I've ever hit. I didn't think it was ever going to get down."

It did, and Buster Posey followed with a sharp grounder that went through the legs of second baseman Brooks Conrad to plate Sanchez with what would be the winning run when Brian Wilson delivered the save in the bottom of the ninth.

Although clutch hitting hasn't exactly been the Giants' forte this season, Huff has come through more often than most, ranking fifth in the NL with 28 RBIs to put his club ahead and seventh with 14 game-winning RBIs. This one merely tied it, but this was no mere game -- this is the postseason, and the Giants' season was on the line.

"Huff's facing a tough lefty, and he found a way to get it done, then we got a break there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "To come back like that after a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, I mean, that can take the wind out of your sails. And these guys came right back and found a way to get it done. That is a great win."

Huff's wait to reach the playoffs -- spanning 1,479 games since he first arrived in the big leagues in 2000 -- ranked third among active Major Leaguers heading into this October. His wait to come through with a huge hit to help his team win a playoff game is over now, too.

As it turns out, Huff discovered that the postseason can be an awfully lot like the regular season -- when he delivered in the clutch as much as anyone on the Giants' roster.

"That's what people told me the whole time starting the playoffs: Don't change your routine, don't change your approach," Huff said. "Just do the same thing you've done all year, and that's what I tried to do."

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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