The Giants were blowing out the hapless Rockies late last week, completing a four-game sweep and putting the Dodgers so far back in the standings, you couldn't read their license plates.
San Francisco's September sky was doing its usual impression of a perfect spring day when Ol' Aubrey Huff walked up to the plate in the sixth to pinch hit.
You remember Huff. The redhead with the red thong. The heart and soul patch of the 2010 champs.
Yup, Aubrey's still fighting as his career winds down, hobbled by personal problems and a balky knee. He has taken a couple of major breaks in the schedule as a result this season. But now that the division's clinched, and the regulars are getting a rest, it's time to think about Huff and his postseason status. It's time to remember what this man did for the team last time it reached the postseason.
The fans at AT&T Park sure remember. They gave him a nice hand when he strode to the plate Thursday. And he made manager Bruce Bochy look smart when he pulled a liner past the first baseman. As Huff limped up the line, the ball rattled around in the bullpen corner, looking more double-ish by the second.
Huff turned it up a notch as he rounded the bag, hesitated awkwardly, then continued to second. He was looking over his shoulder the whole time, clearly afraid he'd get nabbed at second. The crowd seized on the moment, rising to cheer him.
At 35, Huff isn't half the player he was two years ago. More quarter-Huff than half-Huff.
He finally arrived at second base, safe, if not sound. As Bochy quipped after the game: "Huff did a great job turning that double into a double. For a second there, I think he thought it was illegal to go to second."
Upon his arrival, a standing ovation erupted as Huff stood on the bag. A pinch-runner was dispatched post haste, and Huff jogged into the dugout, showered in applause.
"What great fans; what a great atmosphere," said Huff, after the game. "What is it? A Thursday afternoon day game? The place was absolutely packed. This place is amazing."
The savvy denizens of AT&T remember what Huff did for this town and this team two years ago. That appreciation isn't lost on the first baseman in the waning days of his career. By any measure, it has been a fabulous ride for Huff. He was the stitching on a team that won it all. He did so with his best buddy from college, Pat Burrell. And he did it all wearing a red, satin thong.
The fans' recognition of Huff was a touching, insider moment. They were acknowledging a man on his last leg who was still fighting. It has been an odd finish for Huff, who had to leave the team in April because of a bout with anxiety. He then hurt his knee celebrating Matt Cain's perfect game in June.
All that was forgotten as Huff stood on second, soaking in what might be one of his final ovations.
Beyond the good feelings and nostalgia, Huff is hoping the final chapter is still unfolding. And who knows? Maybe he has another big hit in his bat this postseason.
"I'm just trying to get my timing down. Trying to make an impression down the stretch here so that I can get a playoff roster spot," said Huff, who should get some more at-bats now that the Giants have clinched. "I played a big role in 2010, and I hope to play a role again this year."
He has gotten Bochy's attention, among others. Before the crack about his baserunning, Bochy talked about the good swings Huff has been taking. "He's getting a few hits here," said Bochy, referring to Huff's pinch-hitting duties. "His experience as a DH in the American League has helped."
Indeed, Huff is 5-for-9 with two walks since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1. That's a nice rebound from what has been a rough year for Huff, who's batting .200 in only 70 at-bats.
My colleague and Giants beat writer Henry Schulman says the playoff matchup will play a big role in Huff's inclusion or exclusion from postseason play.
Every championship team could use an experienced lefty bat to face late-inning relievers. But Cincinnati, a possible first-round opponent for the Giants, features a lefty setup man and closer, which does not bode well for Huff's chances. Washington and Atlanta have multiple left-handed starters but use righty closers.
And that's when the Giants might need Ol' Aubrey one more time.