It remained tied until the 13th inning, when, with two outs and nobody on, the Mariners scored two runs for a 5-3 Interleague victory in front of what was left of the 40,071 fans at Wrigley Field as the Mariners extended their winning streak to a season-high five games.
But not before some anxious moments in the bottom of the 13th, when the Cubs loaded the bases before Mariners closer J.J. Putz found a way to get the out he needed for his 19th consecutive save in as many save chances.
This one was one of the toughest saves yet because of the way he felt all day long.
"I was out there pitching on fumes," he said. "I had the flu [Monday night] and had no energy today. But you just have to suck it up and get it done any way you can."
Putz got it done by retiring pinch-hitter Koyie Hill on a grounder to first base. The bases became loaded when Putz walked Alfonso Soriano on four pitches.
"We wanted to see if he would chase the split, and he didn't," Putz said. "I don't know if we were really pitching around him, but we were not going to give him anything good to hit. You have to play the percentages in that situation.
"He's a guy who can change the outcome of a ballgame very fast. He's the one that can beat you."
The Mariners had not played an extra-inning game until the first game of this road trip in San Diego. They won that game in 11 innings and worked a little longer for this one.
Jose Vidro started a two-out, so-what rally with a double, high off the ivy in left field and scored -- barely -- on Willie Bloomquist's single into right field. The throw from Jacque Jones arrived in time to get Vidro, who sidestepped catcher Michael Barrett. Lucky for Vidro, Barrett dropped the ball.
"I was determined to score that run," Vidro said. "In my mind, I wanted to get a good lead and score the run. [Third-base coach] Carlos [Garcia] tried to stop me, but I was committed to scoring. I ran past the side, and thank goodness [Barrett] missed the ball."
Pinch-hitter Jamie Burke added a run-scoring single off first baseman Derrek Lee's glove for an insurance run, leaving it up to Putz to pitch the bottom of the inning and improve Seattle's record to 30-0 when leading after seven innings this season.
Left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty picked up the win to improve to 3-0.
Washburn, meanwhile, settled for yet another no-decision. In 29 career Interleague starts, he now has a Major League-high 17 no-decisions, which is one more than Kenny Rogers.
Washburn bowed out after six innings and 94 pitches.
"That first inning took a lot out of me," he said. "Fortunately, I was able to figure it out after that and get back on track. But I was really tired and probably would have been taken out for a pinch-hitter anyway."
Washburn said he didn't know what he did so different in the second inning, when he threw just seven pitches, than in the first, "except throw more strikes. Mechanically, I felt pretty good, but the ball didn't go where I wanted in the first inning."
And then there was the run-scoring single he contributed to the victory.
Just when it appeared Seattle would waste Kenji Johjima's leadoff double in the fourth inning of a tie game, Washburn stepped to the plate and lined a two-out, run-scoring single into right-center field off Cubs starter Rich Hill.
It was the ninth hit in Washburn's Major League career -- first since June 25, 2004, against the Dodgers -- and his fourth RBI.
"I had hoped that one extra run would stand up," he said. "With the bullpen we have, nine times out of 10 it's going to stand. They have done a great job all year. We just had to go a little extra tonight, but the bottom line is we won."
But his arm meant more than his bat.
Prior to the series opener, manager Mike Hargrove said he was hoping that Washburn would work most of the innings, just to give the relievers a much-needed night off.
"Eight would be good, but nine would be better," Hargrove said.
Five or six has been more like it lately.
Since May 24, when the offense began putting up big numbers -- averaging more than seven runs a game -- the starting rotation has been sporadic, pitching into the sixth inning nine times in the past 18 games.
That has left a lot of innings for the relievers, and a 29-pitch first inning was not what Hargrove had in mind, nor were the six relievers he had to use -- lefty Jake Woods got the night off.
"We have been in our bullpen a lot the last month, it seems like," he said. "We had Morrow and Sherrill on limited duty and tried to get through the eighth inning with [Sean] Green, but we had [Morrow and Sherrill] ready in case we ran into a jam."
There was a major jam, but Morrow got the first out on a force at the plate, and Sherrill struck out the two batters he faced.
"Those were huge outs, but everyone did their jobs tonight," Hargrove said.
The Mariners will be short-handed in the 'pen for Wednesday night's game and also might not have third baseman Adrian Beltre available. The left thumb that has bothered him for almost a week now flared up again, and he had to leave the series opener in the eighth inning.