Dodgers Back From the Dead

The script for this strange season must have been written by Lewis Carroll of "Alice in Wonderland" fame. And amidst the falling bodies of players counted on coming out of spring training, one of the more remarkable chapters is the one entitled "David Wells."

Given up for dead by the San Diego Padres after his fastball was unable to reach the mid-80s and his location an iffy thing, in his final four starts he had given up seven runs in three starts and five runs in the other.

The only team in baseball desperate enough to give him another chance at 44, he was fortunate enough to come under the watchful eye of Rick Honeycutt, who had himself pitched in The Show at age 43.

Close to just calling it a career, he and Honeycutt talked him into a game of catch in the outfield and the two tinkered around with his delivery, tightening his curve ball and altering his delivery to he wasn't throwing across his body, allowing him to follow through more easily.

A day or so later, when Wells got his first Dodger start in San Francisco, things fell into place.

And he continued his renaissance when he met his old team (well, one of his old teams) last night in Dodger Stadium and out pitched Hall of Famer in waiting Greg Maddux to give his newest team a "must win" game by a score of 6-3, working five brilliant innings and one ugly one. He's now 3-0 as a Dodger.

Oddly enough, his bat even seems younger. He collected a double and single, the first multi-hit game of his career.

One writer said he was "44 years old with a spirit going on 19 and a body going on fumes." The Dodgers would tell you "whatever." Over four starts the guy so many thought so little of, has won three games and, with any luck, would have won the fourth.

The win brought the Dodgers to within 1 1/2 games of the Padres, keeping the Dodgers, who were crossed off most people's list not so long ago, in the thick of the wild card scramble -- with first place Arizona starting a series in Dodger Stadium tonight.

"Boomer" as he is called by his amazed teammates, allowed a single in the first five innings, when he also ran the bases twice -- no mean feat for an elderly gentleman -- and lost his touch in the sixth, when the Padres scored three times on two home runs.

He worked longer than his fellow octogenarian Greg Maddux and beat the team that had given up on him in a crucial game. Was that important? When these guys say, "I don't look at it that way, it's just another game," don't ever believe them.

He doesn't play those word games. "I didn't give up on myself," he said. "They gave up on me. Maybe they're having second thoughts on it. I hope so."

Along with the metamorphous of Wells, there are other chapters this night in the strange story of our perplexing team.

Manager Grady Little started four used five players (James Loney, Matt Kemp, Tony Abreu, Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton) who hadn't been born when Wells threw his first professional pitch.

Loney went 3-for-4, his third consecutive three-hit game, knocked in four runs to give him 52 on the season and he was 9-for-13 in the series with two home runs, five runs scored and eight RBI. Kent went 2-for-4 and Broxton set up Sammy Saito who closed out the win.

In addition to Loney ("Player of the game in my book," said Wells), the Dodgers ran wild on Maddux with four steals and a squeeze bunt by Furcal, who also scored three runs and stole three bases. Pierre had a steal and run scored and Luis Gonzalez had an RBI single as they went 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Rafael Furcal went 1-for-3, was on base three times, stole three bases and scored three runs. The sprained left ankle he suffered late in spring training still hasn't fully healed but its apparently better.

They scored three runs in the third, an inning Wells opened with a double, only to be erased trying to go to third base on Furcal's grounder to second baseman Marcus Giles. Wells' slash single ended Maddux's night in a two-run fourth inning.

Wells complimented the Dodgers' defense for running down three fly balls against the fence and for cutting off a Padres rally in the second inning when catcher Russell Martin picked Scott Hairston off first base with a runner also on second and a 3-0 count to Josh Bard.

Scott Proctor helped Broxton and Saito combined retire the final nine Padres batters in order, with Saito getting his 38th save. It was Saito's 50th game finished, good for a $50,000 bonus, as he lowered his ERA to 1.24. Proctor hasn't allowed a run in 9.1 innings.

Dodgers improve to 77-69 and pull within 1 1/2 games of San Diego in the wild card, tied with Philly and a game ahead of Colorado. That's as close as the Dodgers have been since Aug. 4. They still trail the Diamondbacks by 5 1/2 in the division, but the two teams play six more times, starting tonight at the stadium.

Brad Penny (15-4, 2.81) opposes Arizona and Doug Davis (13-11, 4.09) tonight and Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News paraphrased Betty Davis when he wrote, "Hold onto your hats, folks, because this [bumpy] ride isn't going to end anytime soon."

Score by Innings San Diego 000 003 000-3 Los Angles 103 200 00x-6 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 3 3 1 1 .271 Pierre cf 2 1 1 0 .293 Loney 1b 4 1 3 4 .329 Kent 2b 3 0 2 0 .299 Gonzalez lf 4 0 1 1 .278 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Martin c 3 0 0 0 .295 Kemp rf 4 1 1 0 .333 Abreu 3b 4 0 0 0 .269 Wells p 2 0 2 0 .149 Seanez ph 1 0 0 0 .183 Proctor p 0 0 0 0 .000 Ethier lf 0 0 0 0 .287 Totals 30 6 11 6 San Diego 30 3 4 3 2B- Loney (17), Wells (1). RBI- Loney 4 (52), Gonzalez (61), Furcal (46). S- Pierre, Furcal. LOB- Los Angles 5, San Diego 1. SB- Furcal 3 (21), Pierre (57). Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Wells (8-8) 6.0 4 3-3 1 3 5.27 Proctor 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 3.65 Broxton 1.0 0 0-0 0 0 2.37 Saito (sv 38) 1.0 0 0-0 0 2 1.24 T-2:22. Att- 44,496.

Schmidt Improving-- Jason Schmidt, almost three months after shoulder surgery, reported steady progress and saying he is confident he will be ready for the start of Spring Training. "At the end of last season [in San Francisco], I wasn't hurt. I felt stronger than I did in the beginning of last season," Schmidt told Dodger writers. "Then, before my surgery, I watched one of my last games from last year with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. I was hitting 95, 97 [mph]. Where was that, I had no idea. I was only hitting 82 by then. That never happened last year." Schmidt denies he hid an injury for one final payday. "I had bigger, better, longer offers with other teams. You get to a new team and something like this happens, people don't know you and what you're about. I guess I'm just a victim of gossip." Schmidt said he feels like he could begin throwing now and hopes to in six to eight weeks, although the club is sticking to a more conservative timetable.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Derek Lowe participated in pregame stretching while wearing a bright red jersey, a gift from reliever Jonathan Broxton who accidentally hit Lowe on the pitching hand while playing catch with the big reliever. Football quarterbacks often wear odd-colored jerseys in practice to avoid being hit. Lowe will be able to start on Saturday against Arizona with no restrictions. ...Third baseman Andy LaRoche, who has been bothered by a protruding disc in his back, said he felt much better. LaRoche said the problem should go away after the season, when he can rest, as long as he continues his prescribed exercise program. "I'm not going to need surgery because it's such a mild protrusion," LaRoche told Ken Gurnick of "With the exercises, it could actually end up healing itself. I'm doing a lot of bending over to try to strengthen the muscles around it so I don't put so much pressure on the disc." ...Although he won't actually turn 80 until Sept. 22, when the Dodgers are on the road, the club will celebrate Tommy Lasorda's milestone birthday tonight by giving away Tommy Lasorda bobbleheads to the first 50,000 fans in attendance. There also will be a video montage featuring many of Lasorda's friends and former players. Coming up: