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SF@STL: Huff hits three homers and drives in six runs

ST. LOUIS -- Aubrey Huff buoyed his team, brightened his attitude and celebrated his wife's birthday all at once.

In triplicate.

Huff recorded his first career three-homer game and drove in six runs Thursday to lead the Giants to a 12-7 rout of the Cardinals. Winning three of four games at Busch Stadium gave the Giants a 4-3 record on this two-city trip and hoisted them back atop the National League West standings, a half-game in front of Arizona.

Of course, first place means nothing at this juncture of the season. But if Huff can sustain his batting stroke, which deserted him until this week, the Giants will have a much better chance of leading the division when it counts the most.

"We all know that when Huffy gets going, he can carry a team," said second baseman Freddy Sanchez, whose four-RBI effort was upstaged. "He looks like he's getting that confidence back and his swing back. I don't think it's any coincidence that he's getting going and we're getting going as a team."

Combined with the long ball he hit Wednesday, Huff doubled his season total in two days. Before that, his performance had been dreadful by his own admission -- a .218 batting average, garnished by a .276 on-base percentage and a .335 slugging percentage. That was nothing like last year, when Huff accelerated the Giants' march to the postseason by hitting .290 with 26 homers, 86 RBIs and a .385 on-base percentage, while slugging .506.

FOR THREE!
Aubrey Huff became the sixth player in the Majors this year with three homers in a game.
Player (team) RBIs Opponent Date
A. Huff (SF) 6 STL 6/2
C. Quentin (CWS) 5 TEX 5/24
C. Hart (MIL) 7 WAS 5/23
J. Giambi (COL) 7 PHI 5/19
J. Bautista (TOR) 4 MIN 5/15
C. Beltran (NYM) 6 COL 5/12

Huff sought mechanical solutions by tinkering with his swing. But the psychological peace he suddenly found may have proven more effective.

"I woke up on June 1 and said, 'Hey, this is your Opening Day.' It's a new month," Huff said.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy agreed that Huff needed to refresh his outlook.

"I know he's been frustrated," Bochy said. "Hopefully he'll get back to who he is and stop trying to do too much."

Wednesday may have been Opening Day for Huff, but Thursday was more important.

"My wife Baubi's birthday is today," Huff said. "She wanted me to hit her a homer. I hit her three. Brownie points."

Huff fulfilled Baubi's wish in the fourth inning. With two outs, Sanchez on first base and the Giants trailing by three, Huff cleared the center-field barrier by hammering a 2-0 pitch from Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who made his Major League debut and was pitching on three days' rest.

"Sinker away," Lynn said. "Got behind him, and he's the wrong guy to get behind ... especially tonight."

Huff's next victim was another right-hander making his first Major League appearance, Maikel Cleto, who inflamed the radar guns with his 99-mph fastball but yielded five seventh-inning runs. Cleto walked the first two batters he faced before Andres Torres bounced an RBI double past first base and Sanchez yanked a three-run homer. Huff followed with a 394-foot line drive into the Cardinals' bullpen in right.

St. Louis' Colby Rasmus drove in six runs, highlighting his output with a seventh-inning grand slam that trimmed the Giants' lead to 10-7. So Huff wasn't merely padding his stats when he collected his final homer, another line drive to right off Brian Tallet with two outs and Torres aboard in the ninth.

Huff had homered twice in a game 12 previous times. He pondered that precedent, along with the possibility of hitting a third homer, during his final at-bat.

"It's certainly on your mind, but you don't expect it," he said. "I got a pretty good pitch, slider-wise. When I hit it, I went, 'Man!'"

Among Huff's many well-wishers was special assistant J.T. Snow, the last Giants player to homer three times in a game (Aug. 13, 2004, at Philadelphia).

"Way to take over the torch, dude," Snow said.

Comforted by their season-high run total, the Giants returned home, where they'll finally be able to stay awhile. They'll play 19 of their next 22 games in the Bay Area, including the June 17-19 Interleague series at Oakland.

"We'd like to be more consistent," Bochy said. "Hopefully, home cooking will do that for us."

That's assuming Huff didn't establish residency in Busch Stadium's batter's box.

"We're going to make sure Huff gets on the plane," Bochy said.

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