Wells’ outstanding start paces Cards

Thursday, July 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:19 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Cardinals pitcher Kip Wells delivers in the first inning against the Florida Marlins on Wednesday. It was Wells’ longest outing of the season and his first victory as a starter since May 23.

MIAMI — Kip Wells grinned, pumped his fist and sprinted to the dugout. He hadn’t won yet — he had only completed a hitless first inning.

There hasn’t been much for him to celebrate lately, so he tried to soak in the moment, not knowing how long it would last.

As it turned out, he lasted eight innings, allowing only two hits to help the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Florida Marlins 6-0 Wednesday night.

Wells (4-12) struck out four and walked two to win for the first time since he threw two shutout innings in relief against Kansas City on June 20. It was his first win in a start since he beat Pittsburgh on May 23.

“People will kind of wonder how you can pump your fist after the first inning,” Wells said. “That’s what happens after my previous starts.”

Juan Encarnacion went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, and So Taguchi added two hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals, who chased struggling Florida starter Dontrelle Willis in the fourth. Albert Pujols also had two hits and drove in a run.

The outing was the longest of the season for Wells, who lowered his ERA from 6.25 to 5.75. He’s tied for the major league lead in losses and had failed to win his previous six starts, but looked sharp against Florida.

“He was fooling hitters all night,” Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said. “This game is going to bring his confidence back.”

Troy Percival worked a scoreless ninth to complete a three-hitter. Florida was shut out at home for the first time this season.

Wells retired only three batters in his previous start, but said he has felt good in recent outings despite the winless streak.

“I can pitch as good as I want, but it comes down to results,” Wells said.

Willis (7-9) was charged with six runs and 11 hits in three-plus innings, and drew a smattering of boos from the home crowd. Willis hasn’t won in his past nine starts, the longest winless streak of his career.

“I’m working hard,” he said. “I’m leaving my heart on the field. If they boo or not, I don’t have anything to hold my head down about. I can look in the mirror.”

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