Wells threw 7 2-3 scoreless innings and struck out a season-high seven to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates past Atlanta 3-1.
“I wasn’t out there trying to throw a shutout. I was just trying to stay smooth in my delivery and not get excited,” said Wells (4-4), who gave up six hits and earned his first win since May 8.
“I have a regular problem of getting excited and then working too fast. I just tried to stay smooth, and all my pitches worked better for me because of it.”
Wells, who allowed only one baserunner to reach third base, rebounded from his worst start in three years on May 29, when he allowed nine runs—four of them earned—in 2 2-3 innings during an 11-2 loss at Cincinnati.
“After that game I could say this wasn’t that important,” Wells said, “but I’d be lying.”
Mike Gonzalez relieved Wells after the Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth. Pete Orr and Kelly Johnson hit consecutive singles with one out, and after Chipper Jones hit into a fielder’s choice, Adam LaRoche drew a walk.
Gonzalez took over and got pinch-hitter Julio Franco to hit a grounder to third. Pirates third baseman Freddy Sanchez had the ball bounce of his glove before making the throw to first for the out. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox argued the call to no avail.
“It wasn’t even a bang-bang play for me,” Cox said. “From the dugout, everybody thought he was safe. That changed it around real quick. We can’t afford missed calls right now.”
The Braves have lost four of their last five games.
Jose Mesa allowed an RBI single to Pete Orr in the ninth, but still earned his 15th save in 17 chances as the Pirates won for the eighth time in their last 12 home games.
Jose Castillo’s bases-loaded single off Tim Hudson (6-4) in the sixth inning gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead. With one out, Sanchez and Jason Bay hit consecutive singles and advanced on Rob Mackowiak’s groundout. Daryle Ward was intentionally walked before Castillo drove in two with a single to left.
Hudson, who had won three of his last four starts, allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked three.
“He pitched well tonight,” Cox said. “He made one bad mistake to Castillo — he hung him a slider—and that was actually the ballgame right there.”
Said Hudson: “It was a pretty decent pitch, but I got a little more of the plate than I wanted. He managed to get it out there. I get that guy out 19 out of 20 times, but he just got his one knock with the bases loaded and put some runs on the board.”
Wells didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until he gave up a two-out single to Wilson Betemit in the fifth inning and then walked Hudson. Wells got Orr to ground out to end the inning.
“With the exception of the game in Cincinnati, his last five or six starts, he’s been very, very good,” Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He didn’t have dominant stuff but he pounded the zone. He really made some quality pitches when he needed to.”
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Sanchez hit a leadoff double and scored on Ward’s one-out single off the right-field wall. Ward has hit safely in seven consecutive games.
Johnson’s infield hit in the eighth was the first of his major league career. … Atlanta rested second baseman Marcus Giles, who was used as a pinch-hitter for Hudson. … Chipper Jones, who played despite jamming his heel Thursday in Washington, struck out three times and his slump extended to 1-for-21. … The Pirates’ Jack Wilson extended his hitting streak to seven games with an infield single in the third inning, giving him 11 hits in his previous 16 at-bats.