SAN DIEGO (AP) -- David Wells' return to a playoff race -- in his
hometown, no less -- was quite a sight.
Wells gave the Padres a boost on Sunday in a 2-1 win over the
Cincinnati Reds that allowed San Diego to pad its NL wild-card
lead. The 43-year-old left-hander threw six strong innings and even
got on base twice, with mixed results. He helped manufacture the
tying run, and later was thrown out trying to score."Today was special," said Wells, obtained on Thursday from the
Boston Red Sox. "I was locked in and wanted to show these guys
that the old man can still do it."Josh Bard hit a bases-loaded single in the eighth to bring in
the go-ahead run, and Trevor Hoffman pulled within seven saves of
passing Lee Smith on the all-time list.San Diego took a 1½-game lead over Philadelphia, which split a
doubleheader with Atlanta. Florida jumped ahead of Cincinnati,
which ended a 2-8 trip and fell into a tie with San Francisco, 2½
games back.The defending NL West champion Padres are three games behind
division rival Los Angeles.The focus, though, was on Wells, who grew up in San Diego's
rough-and-tumble Ocean Beach neighborhood and is more than likely
in the final weeks of his successful, colorful career."I tell you, Boomer, he continues to amaze you," Padres
manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had great command out there. I mean,
at his age, to be doing what he's doing, he has a way of rising to
the occasion, which he did today."Wells didn't get the decision, although he held Cincinnati to
one run and five hits in six innings. He struck out two and walked
one."It's nice to come home and keep the team in the ballgame,"
said Wells, who pitched with the Padres in 2004. "It was hot and I
didn't expect to be on base, and got stuck on base, but it was
great."With the score tied at 1, Wells singled to center with two outs
in the fifth."I was just going up there, closing my eyes and swinging,"
Wells said.He advanced on Dave Roberts' base hit to center. Brian Giles
singled and third base coach Glenn Hoffman waved Wells around, but
the hefty lefty was easily thrown out on a one-hop throw to the
plate by right fielder Chris Denorfia. Rather than trying to slide,
Wells just slowed down."He was trying to turn it on, but there was no gear left,"
Bochy said."At this stage of my career, it takes four singles to score me,
or something in the gap when I'm on second," said Wells, who
figured the exertion cost him two innings on the mound.Even so, "Wells was effective," Cincinnati's David Ross said.
"He does such a good job of changing speeds and constantly keeping
hitters off balance."In the eighth, two Reds relievers loaded the bases with one and
Bard singled up the middle to bring in Khalil Greene.Pinch-hitter Mike Piazza started the decisive rally off Rheal
Cormier (2-3) with a leadoff single. Greene, who came off the
disabled list before the game, replaced Piazza and advanced on
Roberts' sacrifice. Giles walked, and Mike Cameron was hit by a
pitch by Gary Majewski. Bard followed with his hit up the middle.Cla Meredith (3-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 40 chances. He
needs seven saves to break Smith's record of 478.Cincinnati was in the wild-card lead at the start of this
disastrous trip."It was a bad day, a bad series, a bad road trip," Reds
starter Eric Milton said. "We're not by no means out of it. We
have to look ahead and find a way to turn it around."Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the second on Chris Denorfia's RRI
single.San Diego tied it in the third on an unearned run, thanks to
some shoddy defense by the Reds. Manny Alexander singled to left
and Wells laid down a sacrifice bunt right to Milton. The pitcher
turned and bounced a throw to second, with Alexander sliding in
safe on what was ruled a sacrifice. With Roberts up, Ross tried to
pick off Alexander, but the catcher's throw bounced and then
caromed off Alexander's leg as he slid back into second. Alexander
got up and took third, then scored on Roberts' sacrifice.Milton went six innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits.
He struck out two and walked one.
Wells' last hit came June 26, 2005, at Philadelphia, while
with Boston. ... The Reds had an error for the ninth straight game.