ARLINGTON, Texas — Coming home to where he grew up a rabid Rangers fan for his first World Series, Aubrey Huff had a thought in the back of his mind of doing something special, oh, "like hitting a big homer" to put his Giants team ahead.
Sunday night, his dream really came true.
Huff's two-run home run, combined with a dazzling eight-inning start by rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner, propelled the Giants to a 4-0 victory that has them on the edge of a most unlikely World Series championship.
"Pretty surreal right now," Huff said. "It's certainly special for me. Definitely the highlight of my career, for sure."
The Giants lead the best-of-seven Series 3-1 and have three chances, starting tonight in a duel with Rangers ace Cliff Lee, to collect the remaining win they need for their first championship since 1954, when they were still based in New York.
History is on their side, as 38 of the 44 teams with a 3-1 lead have won the Series, but the Giants weren't going to get ahead of themselves. "The number we have to get to is four," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Huff, who gave the Giants a 2-0 lead in the third, and Bumgarner, who allowed only three hits, deserved most of the credit.
They got some help from Andres Torres, who doubled in a run, and rookie Buster Posey, the FSU product who homered for another, and from the Rangers, as starter Tommy Hunter lasted only four innings.
Huff, a former longtime Ray, grew up in nearby Mineral Wells then Fort Worth and lovingly gives all the credit for his success, and even his presence in the big leagues, to his mom.
It was Fonda, a single parent working in the meat department at the local Winn-Dixie, who put $2,500 on her credit card to buy him a batting cage when he was about 10 years old and spent hours with him as he developed his skills.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her," Huff said Sunday night.
And Fonda, a longtime teacher and now a math curriculum specialist in the Pinellas County school system, was there to see her son's biggest moment, sitting in Section 119 with Aubrey's sister, Angie; wife, Baubi; and sons; and other family and friends who all jumped and screamed as the ball went out.
"Wow," Fonda said outside the Giants clubhouse. "It was cool; I don't know what else to say. … It'll soak in next week."
Huff, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Giants in mid January when he had no other offers, said the whole trip "home" has been a blur, what with the number of old friends and others trying to reach out and reconnect with him or his family.
He was supposed to have lunch Sunday with a bunch of buddies from Fort Worth's Brewer High but had to cancel because Baubi and the boys weren't feeling well.
"You see so many faces you recognize in the stands during stretching and stuff," he said. "And once the game starts, you don't even really realize how many people are out there probably that I went to high school with or what have you."
Also special, he said, is playing against the team he grew up cheering for on this stage. "Watching all these games, and the old ballpark and now here, and to be able to come back and do something special like that," he said, "it's surreal."
Huff was the DH on Sunday — "Best job in the world," he said — as the Giants shuffled their lineup, most notably benching struggling ex-Ray Pat Burrell.
The change helped as much in the field, as their more athletic outfield alignment came up with several big plays. But the key to their success was, as it has been all season, their pitching.
Bumgarner — who at 21 plus 91 days was the fifth-youngest pitcher to start a Series game — didn't allow a hit until the fourth, and that wasn't much as Michael Young reached on an infield single when second baseman Freddy Sanchez just missed a great play.
"He didn't throw one pitch at the same speed, and he moved the ball around, he kept the ball on the ground, he kept his defense engaged," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "And they made some great defensive plays out there (Sunday night). The kid did a great job."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.