But they were out of arms, and the right-hander responded with two scoreless innings in a 7-6 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
"You don't really want to use him in that kind of a game unless you have do, and we had to," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "He responded and gave us two great innings."
Wells (3-11) needed 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the 13th and worked around David DeJesus' one-out triple in the 14th, striking out cleanup hitter John Buck with two men on to end the inning. Wells, who has the most losses in the major leagues, was scratched from his start on Tuesday only three hours before the game.
The Cardinals used eight pitchers and left-hander Tyler Johnson was the only reliever not used because of a slightly injured right knee.
"You're sitting down there most of the game knowing you're probably not going to get in unless this kind of situation transpires," Wells said. "To have a good result is a pretty good feeling.
"This is probably our biggest win of the year as far as I was concerned."
Ludwick hit a 2-2 pitch from de la Rosa (4-8), listed as the probable starter Friday at Milwaukee, well over the wall in left center. It was the first game-winning homer for Ludwick, who has four homers this season.
"He threw two real good pitches, and then we went at him with a fastball and he left it out over the plate," catcher John Buck said. "And you saw what happened."
Manager Buddy Bell said Brian Bannister will likely start on Friday in place of de la Rosa, moving up a day and working on four days' rest. Bell left open the possibility that de la Rosa could pitch, since he only threw four pitches.
Albert Pujols tied it in the ninth with a double off the right field wall against Royals closer Octavio Dotel, and Aaron Miles had five hits, tying his career best. The Cardinals left the bases loaded in the ninth and 12th, So Taguchi was picked off second in the 10th and Pujols was cut down trying to go to third on Scott Rolen one-out single in the 13th on center fielder David DeJesus' strong relay.
"They had chances and we kept holding them off," said Alex Gordon, who matched his career high with four hits for the Royals. "We had chances and they did the same to us."
The Cardinals took two of three from Kansas City after dropping two of three last week on the road, and finished 6-9 in interleague play.
Dotel blew his first save in seven chances for the Royals. Joel Peralta struck out pinch hitter Ludwick and Kelly Stinnett with the bases loaded to end the ninth and picked off Taguchi on a play that was not close in the 12th.
The Royals had won their previous three series, each decided in the final game.
"We had an awful approach offensively all night long," manager Buddy Bell said. "This is the big leagues and you've got to be aggressive up there. I'm not sure what we were doing."
Tony Pena and DeJesus drove in a run apiece in the sixth for Kansas City, snapping a 4-4 tie. The Cardinals cut the deficit to one on Scott Rolen's bases-loaded double-play ball in the seventh.
Royals starter Gil Meche gave up four runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season.
Kansas City capitalized on two broken-bat singles, a bunt hit, a sacrifice fly and a throwing error in a three-run first against Todd Wellemeyer, a former Royals reliever. Mark Teahen broke his bat on an RBI single, John Buck hit a sacrifice fly after Pujols, the first baseman, just missed catching a foul pop near the stands earlier in the at-bat, and a third run scored on Rolen's fielding error at third base.
Rolen has committed two fielding errors the last three games after going 60 games without one, a run that began in the final week of the 2006 regular season. Pujols gloved Buck's foul pop but the ball popped out and hit him in the face after he bumped into second baseman Adam Kennedy.
Left fielder Chris Duncan bobbled DeJesus' drive near the warning track to start the fifth, a two-base error. DeJesus scored from third two batters later on Teahen's double-play ball for a 4-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth Rolen had a two-run, bases-loaded single and Duncan's RBI single tied it at 4-4, also chasing Meche.
Taguchi also reached on an infield hit and scored on Scott Spiezio's sacrifice fly in the first for St. Louis.
Wellemeyer, claimed on waivers by the Cardinals on May 15 after being released by the Royals, lasted five innings in his fifth career start. He worked around four errors, and two of the four runs he allowed were unearned.
- The Cardinals have been outscored 54-20 in the first inning.
- Kennedy started for the first time in five games and was 0-for-3 with two groundouts and a strikeout before getting taken out in a double-switch.
- Flores has inherited 14 runners, and nine of them have scored.
- The Royals' run of four games without an error ended in the eighth on Pena's fielding error at SS and 2B Fernando Cortez's throwing error.