SAN DIEGO -- It was well after 10 p.m. on Wednesday when Orlando Hudson, fresh off a rehabilitation stint one hour up the road in Lake Elsinore, strolled into the clubhouse at PETCO Park with a smile on his face.
Hudson, although not officially activated from the 15-day disabled list, was indeed back.
"We had just lost and he was already in here, riling people up, and he didn't even play in the game," Padres closer Heath Bell said. "But he was in the clubhouse telling everyone to keep their heads up."
After missing the previous 13 games with a strained right hamstring, Hudson returned to the lineup with a bang -- well, sort of -- on Thursday, as his sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in the winning run as the Padres knocked off the Brewers, 1-0, before a crowd of 16,286 at PETCO Park.
Hudson's big hit, coming against a five-man infield with outfielders positioned in each gap, ended a game where pitching ruled the roost on both sides -- as Padres pitcher Aaron Harang threw eight scoreless innings, while his Brewers counterpart, Chris Narveson, tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings.
In the end, though, it was Hudson who provided the Padres (19-25) with the lift that they needed -- and not just with his fly ball to right field that ended the game, on a changeup that he jumped on from Milwaukee's Marco Estrada.
"There's a different presence with him here," Bell said. "You've got a veteran guy up there, and everyone in the dugout knows he was going to square one up there. He is in the dugout talking, getting everyone fired up.
"We had the perfect guy for the job."
Ryan Ludwick started the ninth inning with his second hit of the night, in a game in which he extended his hitting streak to eight games and lifted his batting average to .234 -- the highest it has been since the second game of the season.
San Diego manager Bud Black inserted speedy Eric Patterson as a pinch-runner, and he promptly stole second base. Estrada then issued an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe. Patterson and Hawpe then moved along to second and third base, respectively, after Cameron Maybin's bunt.
Estrada then loaded the based with his second intentional walk of the inning, this time to Chase Headley. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke brought in outfielder Mark Kotsay to play in the infield, giving the Brewers five infielders.
It didn't matter, as Hudson drove the first pitch he saw to right fielder Corey Hart, who drifted back to make a nice running catch as Patterson tagged up to score the game-winning run.
Hudson was mobbed by his teammates at first base, the second time this season that he has ended a game with one swing of the bat. He drove in the winning run with a single against the Reds on April 13.
"Orlando brings that presence of experience and calmness, and plays the game with a lot of energy," Black said. "That's infectious. It's good to have him back."
Bell (2-0) got the victory in relief of Harang, although the eight scoreless innings that the San Diego native tossed certainly earned him something more than a no-decision. Mixing what his manager considered his best slider of the season and a fastball with late life, the right-hander allowed six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Harang, who allowed seven earned runs in his last start against the Rockies, said that he used the aggressiveness of the Brewers (21-23) to his advantage, with a nod to his slider that allowed him to work around a dangerous lineup.
"That was a key pitch tonight for me," Harang said. "Not only was I able to throw it for strikes, but I used it in chase situations. As long as you keep it down in the strike zone, you're fine. They're an aggressive team."
Black liked the two-pitch mix, with the occasional curveball and changeup, but said he was especially encouraged by Harang's velocity, with fastball readings of 92-93 mph.
"He was good. He was staying down in the zone and getting ahead consistently. I felt like his velocity was back up to where it was a few years ago," said Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun.
And, more importantly, Harang was good when it counted. He allowed nine baserunners in his eight innings, but his ability to make smart pitches when it counted was partly the reason why the Brewers stranded nine men on base and were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"We had chances to win that game today," Roenicke said. "Sometimes you look at games [like] yesterday, and you think you're going to get it going. Early on, we had people on base. We just didn't get them in."
Narveson, a left-hander, worked differently than Harang, getting a lot of mileage out of his changeup, a pitch he used to keep the Padres off balance for most of the game.
"It was really the first time I've seen him, but I was very impressed by his changeup. I think that was a key, and that he kept the ball down," Black said.
In the end, though, it was Hudson, who from the first day of Spring Training has been a catalyst of sorts for the Padres. His voice could be heard on the back fields in Arizona. Even if you couldn't see Hudson, you could certainly hear him.
"He finished his rehab assignment yesterday and got back here to watch the end of the game," Harang said. "That's how ... giddy he's been to want to get back."