It’s amazing what a couple of wins will do for a pitcher who had gone winless in a career-high seven straight outings while ticking off his manager and pitching coach.
The burly left-hander will try to resume his recent resurgence with the AL East-leading Yankees and post his 200th career win as New York resumes a four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Wells, who went 0-3 from July 25-Sept. 1 while nursing a bothersome lower back, also drew the ire of manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre for his perceived lack of commitment to a between-starts workout regiment.
One crucial start was all Wells needed to get back in the organization’s good graces. With the Yankees on the verge of a three-game sweep at the hands of second-place Boston on Sept. 7, a game that could have shaved their lead in the East to just a half-game, Wells came through with one of his best efforts of the season.
He limited the Red Sox to an unearned run and five hits over 7 1-3 brilliant innings, lifting New York to a much-needed 3-1 victory. The Yankees have since increased their lead in the division to 5 1/2 games over Boston, and Wells followed his big-game performance with another solid outing against Tampa Bay on Friday.
He allowed two runs and 10 hits over seven innings in a 10-4 victory, giving him 199 career wins.
“I’m not there yet, so I’m not worried about it,” Wells said of reaching the plateau. “I’m taking it one game at a time. If it happens, it does.”
The Yankees got seven strong innings from Roger Clemens and a homer from Alfonso Soriano in Tuesday’s 6-3 win over Baltimore. New York has won 10 of 11 since Wells beat Boston two weekends ago, reducing its magic number to clinch a team-record sixth straight division title to 7.
Rookie Pedro Swann belted his first career homer for Baltimore, which has lost six of seven overall and seven of eight at home to New York this season.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Orioles - 4th place, 26 1/2 GB, AL East.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Wells (14-6, 4.21 ERA). Wells, who pitched for Baltimore in 1996, is 12-9 with a 4.11 ERA in 37 career appearances, including 25 starts, against the Orioles.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Eric DuBose (2-5, 3.83 ERA). DuBose has lost four of his last five decisions, including Friday’s 4-2 setback at Toronto. The rookie left-hander allowed four runs and eight hits over eight innings, striking out three and walking two. He is 0-2 with a 14.21 ERA—by far his worst against any opponent—in four appearances, including one start, against New York. DuBose suffered a loss at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 24, allowing seven runs and six hits over 2 1-3 innings of a 7-0 defeat.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Derek Jeter, .324 avg.; Jason Giambi, 39 HRs; Hideki Matsui, 103 RBIs; Soriano, 106 runs and 33 SBs. Orioles - Jay Gibbons, .277 avg., 96 RBIs and 75 runs; Tony Batista, 25 HRs; Brian Roberts, 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 10-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - RHP Mariano Rivera has converted 13 straight save chances, and has not yielded a run in his last 11 appearances. … LHP Wells has been the Yankees’ most consistent pitcher on the road this year, going 7-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 13 appearances, including 12 starts. … C Jorge Posada is 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs against LHP DuBose. Orioles - Baltimore is a season-high 16 games below .500. … DuBose is 1-3 with a 3.16 ERA in six appearances, including three starts, at home. … OF B.J. Surhoff is 18-for-50 (.360) with a homer and five RBIs in his career against Wells.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 47-26 on the road; Orioles - 38-38 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - OF David Dellucci (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Orioles - RHP Kurt Ainsworth (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (elbow), 60-day DL; 1B David Segui (wrist), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL.