Long before the Padres and Mariners began posting crooked numbers on the scoreboard at Safeco Field, before Heath Bell got the final out in a wild 9-7 victory over Seattle, Chad Gaudin was knee-deep in a monumental mess.
Gaudin opened the second inning by allowed three consecutive singles before he struck out two hitters. Then came a walk to No. 9 hitter Ronny Cedeno that forced in one run, with a likely Hall of Famer -- in two countries -- due up.
If Gaudin was to get out of the mess -- the bases loaded -- if he was to hang around deeper into the game, he would have to somehow coax Ichiro Suzuki, a .358 hitter, to do something he does less than most: make an out.
"I attacked him," Gaudin said hours after he got Ichiro to pound a slider into the grass for the final out of the inning. "I wasn't going to walk him. I've faced him a bunch of times and I know he's an aggressive hitter.
"He's a guy who hits, what, .360 to .400 every year? That right there could have been the difference in the game."
Gaudin wasn't the only one who thought so. Second baseman David Eckstein, who had three of the Padres' 13 hits on Tuesday, thought that getting Ichiro out in that situation changed the direction of momentum, sending it the way of the Padres (31-38).
The Padres scored nine runs in the middle innings for a 9-1 lead and then held on as the Mariners (35-35) rallied late, scoring once in the ninth inning before Bell got the last out for his 20th save of the season, preserving the victory, one that may have essentially been decided hours earlier.
"I thought that was a huge ... for him to get out of the bases loaded like that and to make quality pitches to a very good hitter ... that gave us a big mental lift," said Eckstein, who saw plenty of Ichiro when he was a member of the Angels earlier this decade.
"When you go out and load the bases with no outs and only give up one run, that's big," Eckstein said.
The Padres, starving for success in Interleague Play, rode that momentum for two runs in the fourth and fifth innings and then a five-spot in the sixth frame as they chased Seattle pitcher Garrett Olson (2-2), who beat them just six days ago at PETCO Park.
Adrian Gonzalez had a two-run home run, his 24th of the season, and benefited from the return of lefty masher Scott Hairston, who came off the disabled list prior to the game. Hairston had two hits and provided protection for Gonzalez and also strengthened a lineup that produced five hits with runners in scoring position.
That includes the two hits, two stolen bases and two runs scored by Everth Cabrera, who torched the Mariners for two steals in the fifth inning to set up a run later in the inning as Eckstein dumped a ball into short right field.
"We see that in this kid," Padres manager Bud Black said.
From the second inning on, Gaudin mostly coasted. He allowed a solo home run in the sixth inning to Ken Griffey Jr. but worked through the seventh inning, tying his career-high with 11 strikeouts while allowing four hits and just the one walk to Cedeno.
"I really don't know what he had going for him. He kept the ball down and we chased a lot of breaking balls out of the zone," Mariners first baseman Russell Branyan said. "I don't know if he was that good or we were that anxious."
Gaudin would certainly take the latter, as he prided himself on getting ahead in the count and finishing off hitters with a nasty slider that looked especially tempting to Seattle's right-handed hitters, a nasty right-to-left action that left batters pinwheeling in the box.
"Chad set the tone with the way he threw, especially wiggling out of the second with only one run," Black said. "I've seen him [Ichiro] so much, I think that anytime you get him out it's a big out. From that point, Chad really settled in."
San Diego reliever Greg Burke allowed four runs in the eighth inning and Bell allowed one in the ninth inning and had the tying run at the plate before getting Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez to ground out to end the game.
"Never a dull moment," Black said, smiling. "But, ultimately, we shook hands in the end."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.