"I'm thinking, score, score, score ... but the speed of the ball, where [center fielder Nate] McLouth was playing and with no one out, I wasn't 100 percent sure," Hoffman said. "I needed to be 100 percent sure he can score."
Fear not, the rest of Hoffman's decisions weren't nearly as difficult as the Padres went on to score 10 runs to stun the Braves (3-4), as 14 batters came to the plate. The inning had a little of everything, too.
Headley had two hits in the inning. Tony Gwynn walked with the bases loaded to force in a run. Kyle Blanks, as part of a three-hit, five-RBI day, had a two-run double. Heck, even pitcher Kevin Correia helped, blooping a two-run single into short right field.
When the dust settled --and pity Braves manager Bobby Cox, on his final trip here to San Diego -- the Padres were on their way to scoring the most runs in a game by any team at PETCO Park and the most runs at home since scoring 18 at Qualcomm Stadium in 2002.
Yes, this from a team that had scored 19 runs in its previous six combined games, all on a 2-4 season-opening road trip where strikeouts (56) were more common than hitting in a contagious fashion and, on this day, in a ballpark that suppresses offense, no less.
Venable and Blanks each finished a hit shy of hitting for the cycle. This from a club that still hasn't had anyone in franchise history achieve such a feat. It was that kind of game.
"It was a collection of good at-bats and good situational hitting," said San Diego manager Bud Black, trying his best to explain, really, the unexplainable. "Some balls found holes, and we hit some balls very hard."
That the Padres inflicted so much damage against Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, a 14-game winner a year ago who had a 1.32 ERA in two previous starts against San Diego was, to say the least, entirely surprising and unexpected.
Jurrjens allowed two hits, including an RBI single to Nick Hundley, in the second inning, but there weren't exactly impending signs of doom for the right-hander. He allowed a hit in the third inning, but escaped unscathed, trailing, 1-0.
That all changed in the fourth inning.
Headley, who had two hits to raise his average to .448, started the inning with a double that McLouth couldn't quite corral. Venable followed with a hard single up the middle, too hard, in Hoffman's estimation. So he held Headley, not questioning -- not much, at least -- if it was the right decision.
"Instead of having one out there and blowing up the inning," Hoffman said, "It gave us a chance."
The at-bat of the game, in Black's mind, occurred in that fourth inning, but only after the Braves made a pitching change, bringing in left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes to replace Jurrjens. The first batter Reyes faced was Blanks, who struggled in the first week and entered the game hitting .158.
Blanks, who struggled against left-handers in his first stint with the Padres as a rookie a year ago, saw 11 pitches during his at-bat against Reyes, fouling off five pitches before driving a slider into left field for two runs.
"Fighting off fastballs, fighting off curveballs, he finally got a pitch that he could hit," Black said.
Blanks arrived early at PETCO Park on Monday morning to get in some extra time in the batting cage. He found something that worked and took it into the game with him.
"I felt like my hands were really working for me," Blanks said.
After that inning, Correia (1-1) quickly became an afterthought, which was perfectly fine with him. He allowed two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings before letting Edward Mujica and Adam Russell finish the game.
Correia was asked if he ever experienced anything like what he saw Monday. He nodded his head, almost remorsefully. He said that at some time, at some level and on some bad day, these types of games happen to pitchers.
"I know what it's like from the other end, I've been out on the mound when one guy puts a good swing on the ball and then everyone is doing it," Correia said. "Baseball is weird like that. It's not always how well you execute sometimes."
Venable, who drove in three runs and hit a two-run home run in that fourth inning, had a pragmatic view on the inning. He shared it with reporters after the game, doing his best to keep proper perspective on one inning in a season where they eventually all blur together.
"It's nice to have a good day, but you want to stay away from hitting .200 in your next 30 at-bats," he said. "You can enjoy the day, but you have to move on."