After losing six of their last seven games before Wednesday, the Cardinals now are only six games off the pace again and just four back on the loss side.
"As lousy as we've been playing. ... that's the best thing about the NL Central. Nobody wants to run away with it," said closer Jason Isringhausen, who saved Kip Wells' fifth victory in 18 decisions Wednesday.
Since being put back in the rotation on July 18, Wells has allowed only nine earned runs in 32 2/3 innings for an ERA of 2.48. He is 5-13 now after being 2-11 at one juncture.
"There were a lot of factors that went into me not pitching any better than I did early on," Wells said. "Trying to decipher who was pitching in my uniform the first two months and who's pitching in it now ... I don't think there's a way to quantify why that happened.
"Hopefully, this guy who's wearing it now will keep wearing it."
CARDINALS 2, PADRES 1: Juan Encarnacion was charged with an error to set up a run in the first inning, but he doubled in a run in the Cardinals' first and scored what proved to be the winning run on Albert Pujols' single.
Kip Wells didn't walk anybody and gave up only one unearned run in seven innings, and Jason Isringhausen survived two walks in the ninth.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--INF/OF Scott Spiezio missed a third consecutive game with an unspecified illness, although club officials said more information would be available Thursday. "It's been a weird year," said Spiezio, also had been sidelined with an infected left index finger earlier in the season.
--OF Rick Ankiel hit his 32nd homer at Class AAA Memphis on Tuesday night, and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said it was an interesting dilemma as to when to bring up the left-handed-hitting outfielder, who is batting .267. "I don't think you necessarily have to wait until September (when rosters can be expanded)," La Russa said.
--RHP Josh Kinney, recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery performed this spring, is throwing from 120 feet on flat ground without discomfort and said he was looking forward to throwing off a mound next month. He will not pitch this season, but he is serving as an adviser to RHP Chris Carpenter, who had elbow surgery last month.
Kinney, who has a four-month head start on Carpenter, said, "I feel bad for him. He took his brace off and he said, 'Did your arm look like this?' and I said, 'Yeah, it's pretty gruesome.' There's the scar, and you're just so swollen.
"He's the type of guy who wants to get back and get after it, but you've got to just pace yourself. It's a marathon."
--CF Jim Edmonds singled in the first inning, hitting safely for the fifth straight game. He is 10-for-19 in that stretch.