LOS ANGELES -- This was vintage Greg Maddux -- and that was not what the Padres wanted to see, feel or experience in their quest to seize the National League West lead from the Dodgers. Maddux reduced the Padres' offense to a whimper in Friday night's opener of a big four-game series at Dodger Stadium, pitching the Dodgers to a 3-1 win in front of 52,911. The 40-year-old right-hander was so good, his 43-year-old adversary couldn't help admiring his work. "I appreciate it, I really do. Any pitcher would," San Diego starter David Wells said, having lost his duel with Maddux. "It's awesome."
As Los Angeles extended its NL West lead to 1 1/2 games over the Friars, San Diego's Wild Card cushion was reduced to 1 1/2 games over Philadelphia. Maddux (13-13) did not allow a hit until Brian Giles stroked a clean single to right with one out in the seventh inning. True to unflappable form, Maddux then erased Mike Piazza on a double-play grounder on his 68th and final pitch of the game. "You would like to match zeroes with him and have that type of game," said Wells, who was brought from Boston to do that and was limited by an ankle sprain he suffered in his first start for San Diego. "Right now, it's not my turn. He was dealing. That's what he does. This hasn't been a stellar year for him, but he knows how to pitch.
"When you keep hitters on their front foot, off-balance, you've got a chance to win a lot of ballgames."Maddux's 331st career win pushed his career record to 24-15 against San Diego in 44 starts. Wells thoroughly understands the craft -- and how difficult it can be when the body isn't cooperating. His right ankle blew up on him as he rounded third on an ill-conceived attempt to score from second base in his Padres debut at PETCO Park. He's been getting treatment between starts, but he is no kid, of course. And when a pitcher has an affliction of any kind, word gets around. Rafael Furcal bunted leading off for the Dodgers, and Wells was proud to say he was able to get to the ball and throw out the swift shortstop. He sailed through three innings, in classic Boomer baby fashion, before everything unraveled in the fourth. Unable to bring down his 12-to-6 curveball over his front leg because of the ankle issues, Wells didn't have one of his primary weapons. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead against Wells with a two-out rally in the fourth inning that began with Jeff Kent's walk. "Ridiculous," Wells said of that five-pitch misstep. "No reason for it. Just goes to show -- walk guys, it can come back to haunt you." Wells thought he'd just gotten out of trouble when he got Nomar Garciaparra to bounce into a double play after Kenny Lofton's leadoff single. But J.D. Drew smoked a first-pitch fastball to dead center, and not even Mike Cameron could get there. Kent scored, and then Drew scored when Julio Lugo singled to right. For Drew, it must have felt like sweet revenge. "I've only faced him a couple times," Wells said. "Last time I faced him, I broke his wrist in St. Louis with a sinker that ran in and got him." Those two runs were all Maddux and the Dodgers bullpen would need, but another run arrived in the seventh with Wells gone. Marlon Anderson beat out a bunt single against Doug Brocail and advanced on Adrian Gonzalez's throwing error. Brocail pulled up chasing Anderson's bunt with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring and gave way to reliever Alan Embree. Anderson, after stealing third, scored on Olmedo Saenz's sacrifice fly. Brocail, according to manager Bruce Bochy, sustained a second-degree strain of the right hamstring and "is going to miss some time." After Maddux took his exit, having walked three and given up just Giles' hit, the Friars pushed across an unearned run in the eighth against reliever Jonathan Broxton. Second baseman Lugo's throwing error on a fielder's-choice grounder by Josh Barfield brought home Gonzalez, who'd walked and moved up on Geoff Blum's single. And that was the San Diego offense, in a nutshell. Takashi Saito notched his 19th save with an overpowering ninth, striking out Dave Roberts and Todd Walker looking before Giles tapped out to first. Wells (2-4, 0-1 as a Padre) left for a pinch-hitter after five innings, yielding two earned runs on six hits. "I'm not frustrated," Wells said. "I have to put some goose eggs up. I'll figure out what I need to do and get back out there Wednesday [at PETCO Park against Arizona]." It was the first time the two veterans had locked up since Game 3 of the 1995 NLCS, when Maddux pitched Atlanta to a win over Wells and Cincinnati. "I got a hit off him in the third inning of that game," Wells said. "I think that's why he brushed me back tonight. He respects my pop."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.