Oldtimers Day Goes Wells for Dodgers

David Wells, for one game at least, was the complete (big) package, working five innings, holding the Mets to a pair of runs over five innings and, of all things, beating out a bunt to ignite a two-run fifth inning that put Los Angeles in front to stay.

The Lefthander became the oldest Dodger pitcher to start a game since the team's move to Los Angeles. Don Sutton was 43 years and 129 days old when he toed the rubber for Los Angeles on August 9, 1988. The 44-year old Wells was be the sixth L.A. Dodger to start a contest after turning 40, joining Sutton (16 starts), Greg Maddux (12), Orel Hershiser (6) and Tom Candiotti (5).   

But all that is just window-dressing. The main thing, the only thing, is that the Dodgers got a positive jolt from watching the almost-retired Wells battle on the mound and seeing the 250-pound (it says in the book) hot-foot it to first after a leadoff bunt in the fifth inning.

He may go 7-0 the rest of the season or this may be his swan song but for one inning, one night Los Angeles had something to tie their pennant wagon to.

Nearly three weeks after he was dumped by his home-town Padres, Wells picked the club up and carried it for five innings, leading them to a 6-2 win and a split of the road trip.

The Dodgers' chances of winning the N.L. West pennant, or even the wild card, would get much better odds in Las Vegas than the thought of the veteran pitcher performing so well; and much higher than the odds on him dropping a perfect bunt and thundering down the first base line before the throw arrived at first base.

But with a national television audience watching, that is just what happened.

The big guy got Jose Reyes to line to third in the first inning, then gave up a single to Lastings Milledge and a double to David Wright, the Dodgers public enemy #1. But on the double, Milledge rounded third too far and was nailed on your routine 7-6-5-2 play.

Having survived that mess, Wells had his only 1-2-3 inning in the second but Wright's second double of the game drove in a pair of runs in the third to put the Mets up 2-1 and a CNN poll indicated the Dodger hopes were lower than Washington's approval numbers. Even Wells picking Wright off second base didn't much lift anyone's spirits.

Juan Pierre had moved his hitting streak to 14 games in a row when he tripled across Rafael Furcal, who had walked, in the top of the third. Los Angeles left a runner at third in the first, third and fourth innings. And you could hear Dodgers not-so-faithful turning off their televisions all over the country because it looked like a re-run.

Wells had struck out in the third, looking for all the world like a 44-year-old man who had not seen a pitch thrown in anger for three weeks.

But in his second appearance at the plate, he rolled a bunt down the third base line with the precision of Minnesota Fats banking the nine ball in the corner pocket.

Furcal singled to right and Wells made it to second before the throw came back into the infield. Pierre hit into a force play before Kemp dropped a single into short right-center to score Wells all the way from third and tie the score.

Kemp had left Furcal on third in the first and Pierre on third in the third innings, then was about to make his third mistake of the game. Ramon Martinez, who replaced Jeff Kent after Mets starter John Maine hit him on the right ear-flap of his batting helmet and put him out of action for the rest of the game, whacked a double to right-center to score Pierre with the lead run.

Kemp, who was moving on the pitch, pulled the little league trick of not picking up the third base coach, circling second base in confusion before heading on to third instead of scoring. Ethier flew to left to end the inning.

Once upon a time in Major League Bases, the manager would have been waiting for Kemp when he came off the field to present him with a bus ticket to Valdosta, Georgia or Sheboygan, Wisconsin to learn how to run the bases but those days are gone forever.

Sometimes it is hard to remember Kemp is only 22 years old, but this night it was quite apparent.

When the Mets loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, the last two batters reaching base on walks by an obviously tiring Wells, the veteran put a cherry atop his five innings of work, striking out Alou on three consecutive curveballs.

However, the Dodgers were energized with the go-ahead rally and added three more in the sixth, ignited by Luis Gonzalez's pinch-single that scored James Loney from first base where he had been given a life when Jeff Conine had booted his hard-hit grounder.

Furcal singled, Pierre singled to score Gonzalez and Kemp made amends of a sort, beating out an RBI infield single to close out the scoring for the evening.

Thirty-eight-year old Rudy Seanez took over, casting some doubt about the Dodgers youth movement, but combined with Wells it gave the club 82 years of experience that the Mets could not overcome.

Joe Beimel followed Rudy and when he allowed an infield single and a walk, wasted no time in summoning Jonathan Broxton to the mound, the only man on the team bigger than Wells.

Broxton was near-flawless and Takashi Saito closed things out in a rare, non-save appearance.

After the game Wells said, "I was nervous, I'm not going to lie. I always get nervous, but when you come to a new team, they're expecting you to go out there and at least, well, I guess they wanted me to be the savior, and I'm not that. But I like to pitch in big games.

"Anything to spark something," Wells continued. "With San Diego, it was tough getting runs, and you see what happened the last two days here. But anything can spark it, and that's what happened. Guys followed suit, and this is a good-hitting team here.

"If a pitcher keeps things close, anything can happen."

Kent had walked off the field in the fourth inning after he was hit in the left side of his helmet by a pitch from Mets starter John Maine. After the game, a typically brusk Kent didn't have much to say on the matter other than he thought he would be all right and manager Grady Little said he probably will play in tonight's series opener with Washington.

Wells not only demonstrated the proper bunting technique, he baffled the Mets with 65-mph rainbow curveballs to and 85-mph cut fastballs. He was charged with seven hits and two runs.

Wright was superb in the series, going 5-for-8 in the series with four walks, three runs and five RBIs, accounting for eight of the Mets 10 runs in the three games.

Little plans include starting Wells Friday night in San Diego against his former team and skip Eric Stults. The victory was No. 236 for Wells, tying him with Whitey Ford on the all-time list.

The Dodgers kept pace with first-place Arizona and remained tied with Colorado, 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card.

Offensively, the Dodgers got three hits and two runs from Rafael Furcal and two hits and four RBIs from Pierre and Kemp, with the top three spots in the order going 7-for-14.

The rotation for the Washington series includes Derek Lowe (10-11, 3.45) vs Mike Bacsik (5-7, 4.57) tonight. Tuesday Chad Billingsley (8-4, 3.48) vs Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.31) and Brad Penny (14-4, 2.65). The rest of the schedule will be a dogfight (oops a poor choice of words) against National League West opponents.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	001 023 000-6
New York	002 000 000-2

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  2  3  0  .283
Pierre cf	4  1  2  2  .290
Kemp rf	        5  0  2  2  .335
Kent 2b	        1  0  0  0  .287
 Martinez pr-2b	3  0  1  1  .193
Ethier lf	5  0  1  0  .292
Hillenbran 3b	5  0  0  0  .247
Loney 1b	4  1  1  0  .303
Lieberthal c	4  0  1  0  .246
Wells p	        2  1  1  0  .125
 Gonzalez ph	1  1  1  1  .279
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Saenz ph	1  0  0  0  .184
 Beimel p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
   Totals	40 6 13 6
   Mets	        34 2  9 2

 Error- Hillenbran (3). 2B- Furcal (23), Martinez
(4). 3B- Pierre (7). RBI- Pierre 2 (33), Kemp 2
(32), Martinez (24), Gonzalez (56). SB- Kemp (7),
Pierre (51). LOB- Los Angeles 9, New York 9.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Wells (6-8)	5.0  7  2-2  3  2  5.46
Seanez	        1.0  0  0-0  0  0  3.38
Biemel	        0.1  1  0-0  1  1  4.02
Broxton	        1.2  1  0-0  0  2  2.25
Saito	        1.0  0  0-0  0  2  1.41
 HBP- Kent. T- 3:03. Att- 49,234.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Despite the importance of the game, Little stuck with his plan to start Mike Lieberthal behind the plate and rest Russell Martin. Martin has caught 117 games, Lieberthal only 13 and the team is 3-10 with Lieberthal behind the plate. ...Longtime Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds, who died last week in Walworth, Wisconsin, scouted the Midwest for the Dodgers and was responsible for signing 1980 NL Rookie of the Year Steve Howe and right-hander Bob Welch, among many others throughout his career. McReynolds scouted for the Dodgers for 25 years and in 1987 was named Midwest Scout of the Year by Baseball America. He previously scouted for Kansas City and Cincinnati.

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