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Former Tampa Bay Rays Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell help lead San Francisco Giants into NLCS

PHILADELPHIA — One was the personification of the Rays' lengthy past failures, the other arguably among the biggest mistakes of the present regime.

But now, together, Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell are two of the biggest reasons the Giants are playing for the National League pennant.

"We wouldn't be here without them," Giants GM Brian Sabean said before Saturday's opener. "It's pretty simple."

Huff, after signing a one-year, $3 million deal, turned out to be arguably the Giants' most valuable player, leading the team with a .290 average, 26 home runs and 86 RBIs and playing solid defense at first base and left- and rightfield.

And Burrell, after being released by the Rays in mid May and first signing a minor-league deal with the Giants, was one of their biggest surprises, hitting .266 with 18 homers and 51 RBIs in 96 games and taking over as the starting leftfielder after batting just .202-2-13 in 24 games as the Rays' DH.

For Huff, the chance to be in the postseason for the first time after 6½ seasons with the Rays, followed by unsuccessful stints with the Astros (to whom the Rays traded him in July 2006), Orioles and Tigers, is cause for celebration. His 1,479 games played without making the playoffs had been third most among active players.

"This is a blast," Huff said. "I'm having a great time. This is what I've been waiting my whole life to do. I used to sit on my couch in Tampa and watch these playoffs and think to myself, 'Gosh, how do these guys have the energy to play these games, I'm so tired.' Now I get it — pure adrenaline."

Burrell had been in the playoffs with the Phillies in 2007-08, which is part of the reason the Rays signed him to the two-year, $16 million contract going into the 2009 season, along with the promise of his powerful right-handed bat.

For a number of reasons — primarily Burrell's inability to get comfortable in the DH role — it didn't work out in Tampa Bay, with Burrell hitting only .218 with 16 homers and 77 RBIs in 146 games over two seasons, and not appearing to have much positive impact in the clubhouse.

"The guy's been more than a pleasant surprise," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Not just with his play, but also who he is, how he's helped out in that clubhouse. He's been through this and he's really helped those kids in there."

Saturday, Huff went 1-for-4 and Burrell 2-for-3, including a crucial RBI double off Roy Halladay in the sixth inning.

PITCHING IN: RHP Roy Oswalt starts Game 2 for the Phillies tonight hoping to do better than in his division series outing, when he gave up four runs (three earned) and lasted only five innings against the Reds.

But that start came after nine days off, and this one comes after eight, and Oswalt isn't sure exactly what to expect. "Seemed like it was forever since we played," he said. "You have (this time) in between and you don't know exactly what you need to do."

The Giants changed their rotation from the division series, moving LHP Jonathan Sanchez up to Game 2 and pushing RHP Matt Cain back to Game 3. Bochy said it was done to split up RHPs Tim Lincecum, who started Saturday's opener, and Cain as much as anything.

OF DOC, AND THE FREAK: As good as Halladay has been, he hasn't pitched well against the Giants, going 0-2, 7.23 in three regular-season starts before Saturday. "Can he pitch better than that against them? Yeah, of course he can,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "But tonight, you know, they hit some balls good on him." … No surprise that Tim Lincecum got the win: He is 37-0 in 52 regular-season starts when the Giants score four or more when he's in the game.

MISCELLANY: Burrell, a longtime Phillie, got a mostly positive reaction from the Citizens Bank Park crowd. … All five of the Giants playoff games have been decided by one run. … The Phillies had won seven straight postseason series openers. … Vice president Joe Biden was among those in the crowd. … First-pitch temperature was 59.

Former Tampa Bay Rays Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell help lead San Francisco Giants into NLCS 10/16/10 [Last modified: Sunday, October 17, 2010 1:29am]

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