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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Wells has plenty in reserve

Suppose Curt Schilling's right ankle doesn't fully recover this season. Suppose Schilling can't make it back to anchor the Red Sox' starting rotation for the Division Series (you're not still worried about the Yankees after last night's demonstration, are you?). Who gets the ball for the first game of the playoffs?

David Wells, that's who.

Boomer had an eventful night. Getting ready for his 16th start of the season, he learned that he'd been suspended six games for making contact with a couple of umpires when he got tossed in a game against the Blue Jays at Fenway July 2. He appealed the penalty, then pitched seven rocking-chair innings of a preposterous, 17-1 blowout victory to improve his record to 7-5. The Sox have scored 17 against the Yankees twice this season. So far.

Wells was in no mood to discuss his suspension before last night's game and barked at a reporter looking for commentary after news of his suspension was released. Conspiracy theorists held that Major League Baseball timed the news in an effort to rattle Wells on the day of his start, but anybody who's been around Boomer would certainly dispute that notion.

''Knowing David, this would just tick him off and make him pitch better," said Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino.

The Sox made it an easy night for Wells, putting the game away before some fans got to their seats. Johnny Damon (27 straight games and another sleepless night for Dom D.) and Edgar Renteria both batted in each of the first four innings. It was 8-0 after two, 12-1 after four, and 17-1 after six innings. Yankee pitchers had nothing. Not even pride. For the third straight season, David Ortiz gets to dig in on every pitch and have his way with the Yankees staff. It's the ultimate comfort zone. A three-year buddy pass. It would make Bob Gibson blush.

Meanwhile, Wells long ago established himself as a strike-throwing machine. Stake him to a double-digit lead, and he's going to make things look easy. In seven innings, Wells threw only 85 pitches and 58 were strikes. He fanned five and walked none. He gave up one run on five hits.

''You always go out there and take it as a 0-0 ballgame, or a 1-0 ballgame and just pitch and try and hit your spots," said Wells. ''And not just groove fastballs because you got a 10-0 lead. You got to utilize every pitch that you have. A lot of hitters will yell at you from the dugout and say 'challenge somebody,' but I'll challenge you with a curveball, cutter, or whatever it might be."

''I thought David Wells did a great job with the lead," said Sox manager Terry Francona. ''He was efficient. He pounded the strike zone. Sometimes it's not easy to pitch in a game like that. But he handled the situation very well and he was able to use all his pitches."

Wells's ERA is down to 4.73 and it looks like the Red Sox have the true Boomer, a guy who can pitch in the big games.

''He's good. I think we knew what we were going to get as long as he had his health. We knew we were going to get a professional pitcher."

Wells said he was not surprised by the suspension, but added, ''I'm going to have to go back and look at the tape. I don't feel like I did anything wrong. To get thrown out of the game by the second base umpire -- it wasn't his beef. I don't think it was his call. I was just trying to walk away from confrontation."

Walking away from confrontation has not always been his way. But it can be a strength. Every team needs a few guys who won't back down. If Wells played basketball, he'd be a guy who'd want to take the last shot. That's the way you have to be if you want to beat the Yankees.

''I love pitching against them because they're such a good team," he said. ''To get an opportunity to pitch against an All-Star lineup, it's fun. I have a lot of friends over there, but they know I'm coming at 'em."

Spoken like the Boomer fans know and love. He fears no team, no umpire, no fan, no media. He just works fast, throws strikes, and lives for the big games. And that's why if Schilling gets stuck in neutral, Boomer gets the ball in Game 1.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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