SAN DIEGO -- David Wells' return to a playoff race -- in his hometown, no less -- was quite a sight.
Wells gave the Padres a boost on Sunday in a 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds that allowed San Diego to pad its NL wild-card lead. The 43-year-old left-hander threw six strong innings and even got on base twice, with mixed results. He helped manufacture the tying run, and later was thrown out trying to score.
"Today was special," said Wells, obtained on Thursday from the Boston Red Sox. "I was locked in and wanted to show these guys that the old man can still do it."
San Diego took a 1½-game lead over Philadelphia, which split a doubleheader with Atlanta. Florida jumped ahead of Cincinnati, which ended a 2-8 trip and fell into a tie with San Francisco, 2½ games back.
The defending NL West champion Padres are three games behind division rival Los Angeles.
The focus, though, was on Wells, who grew up in San Diego's rough-and-tumble Ocean Beach neighborhood and is more than likely in the final weeks of his successful, colorful career.
"I tell you, Boomer, he continues to amaze you," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "He had great command out there. I mean, at his age, to be doing what he's doing, he has a way of rising to the occasion, which he did today."
Wells didn't get the decision, although he held Cincinnati to one run and five hits in six innings. He struck out two and walked one.
"It's nice to come home and keep the team in the ballgame," said Wells, who pitched with the Padres in 2004. "It was hot and I didn't expect to be on base, and got stuck on base, but it was great."
With the score tied at 1, Wells singled to center with two outs in the fifth.
"I was just going up there, closing my eyes and swinging," Wells said.
He advanced on Dave Roberts' base hit to center. Brian Giles singled and third base coach Glenn Hoffman waved Wells around, but the hefty lefty was easily thrown out on a one-hop throw to the plate by right fielder Chris Denorfia. Rather than trying to slide, Wells just slowed down.
"He was trying to turn it on, but there was no gear left," Bochy said.
"At this stage of my career, it takes four singles to score me, or something in the gap when I'm on second," said Wells, who figured the exertion cost him two innings on the mound.
Even so, "Wells was effective," Cincinnati's David Ross said. "He does such a good job of changing speeds and constantly keeping hitters off balance."
In the eighth, two Reds relievers loaded the bases with one and Bard singled up the middle to bring in Khalil Greene.
Pinch-hitter Mike Piazza started the decisive rally off Rheal Cormier (2-3) with a leadoff single. Greene, who came off the disabled list before the game, replaced Piazza and advanced on Roberts' sacrifice. Giles walked, and Mike Cameron was hit by a pitch by Gary Majewski. Bard followed with his hit up the middle.
Cla Meredith (3-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.
Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 40 chances. He needs seven saves to break Smith's record of 478.
Cincinnati was in the wild-card lead at the start of this disastrous trip.
"It was a bad day, a bad series, a bad road trip," Reds starter Eric Milton said. "We're not by no means out of it. We have to look ahead and find a way to turn it around."
Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the second on Chris Denorfia's RRI single.
San Diego tied it in the third on an unearned run, thanks to some shoddy defense by the Reds. Manny Alexander singled to left and Wells laid down a sacrifice bunt right to Milton. The pitcher turned and bounced a throw to second, with Alexander sliding in safe on what was ruled a sacrifice. With Roberts up, Ross tried to pick off Alexander, but the catcher's throw bounced and then caromed off Alexander's leg as he slid back into second. Alexander got up and took third, then scored on Roberts' sacrifice.
Milton went six innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits. He struck out two and walked one.
- Wells' last hit came June 26, 2005, at Philadelphia, while with Boston.
- The Reds had an error for the ninth straight game.