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A'S 13, RED SOX 6

All's not Wells in Oakland

Lefthander struggles in return to rotation

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bunt single. Single. Single. Fielder's choice. Sacrifice fly. Double. Single. Single. Fly out. Line out. Single. Single. Home run. And one maddening walk -- off the mound, and into the dugout.

No sooner did David Wells rejoin the Red Sox pitching staff was he gone, lifted after 1 1/3 innings, nine hits, and seven runs yesterday in his return to the rotation, three weeks to the day after going on the disabled list with a sprained plantar fascia ligament in his right foot. He put the Sox in a 7-0 hole, which deepened to 13-2 before they pulled within 13-6, matching their largest deficit in defeat this season.

''It multiplied and got out of hand," manager Terry Francona said, summarizing Wells's outing. ''Once [Eric] Chavez hits the home run, 7-0, it seems silly to keep [Wells] out there any longer."

Wells took the loss (his fourth in six starts), took the ERA hit (his climbed to 6.75), and took no interest in whether he might have been better served making a rehabilitation start with Pawtucket.

''I'm going to let you guys write what you want," said the lefthander, who turns 42 tomorrow. ''I'm not going to answer any questions like that because obviously you guys think I should have. I know what I'm capable of doing. Because the game looked bad today, you guys are going to decide I needed one."

On top of his base pay of $2.5 million, Wells's contract pays him $200,000 for each start from 11 to 20 and $300,000 for each start from 21 to 30. Asked if he came back when he did to maximize his number of major league starts, given his age and the mileage on his body, Wells said, ''You write what you want. Anything else?"

His 1 1/3 innings represented his briefest outing since June 8, 2001, against the Cubs. It was also the shortest by a Sox starter this season. Wells has two of the three shortest -- yesterday and the 3{dbcomma} innings he went April 25 against Baltimore, when he injured his foot. The other was the 3 2/3 innings Jeremi Gonzalez pitched in his last start, Friday at Seattle. Gonzalez, in fact, surrendered his start yesterday to Wells only to find himself pitching in relief in the second inning.

That was because Wells simply couldn't stay any longer, not with the way things were going.

Mark Kotsay, leading off, bunted the first pitch Wells threw to the right side and reached. Hyper right fielder Eric Byrnes singled to left, as did Jason Kendall, loading the bases. Chavez grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring Kotsay for a 1-0 lead, and Keith Ginter followed with a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.

With two outs in the first inning, and the damage still slight, Wells surrendered a Scott Hatteberg RBI double and an RBI single to Erubiel Durazo, upping Oakland's lead to 4-0.

''I was backing up all the bases," said Wells, who may never have uttered those words before in his life. ''And that's something you don't want to do."

Wells retired Kotsay leading off the second, but three straight hits -- singles by Byrnes and Kendall, and a towering blast to right-center by Chavez on a cutter that looked more like a curveball -- sent Wells to the showers.

''I don't second-guess pitching him," Francona said. ''I wish the results were different. I think we all agree we've seen David Wells pitch better than that. It got away so quickly, he never got a chance to get his feet on the ground."

Wells, his catcher, and his manager all claimed no health restrictions for the burly lefthander. Wells, the night he was hurt, stopped throwing curveballs -- a key pitch of his -- because of the pain. But he said his stride was normal and his foot was healthy yesterday.

''I felt good," he said. ''That's the bottom line."

Wells's early issues kept the Sox from having any real chance at a .500 road trip. Instead, they arrived home with a 2-4 record at Seattle and Oakland, outscored, 46-34, on the West Coast swing in the team's only visits to those two cities. Sox starters -- Gonzalez, Wade Miller, Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, Matt Clement, and Wells -- coughed up 31 earned runs in 30 innings (a 9.30 ERA).

''We got beat around today," Francona said. ''That's going to happen. I don't think five minutes after you lose by a touchdown you reevaluate your ball club."

The positives yesterday? Jason Varitek hit a solo homer, his eighth, in the third inning. It's early, and Varitek has yet to slump, but he's on pace to play 130 games and hit .331 with 32 home runs and 66 RBIs. Mark Bellhorn also homered, his second of the season and of the trip. The Sox, down 13-2, posted four more runs in the eighth.

Kevin Youkilis, batting second and starting at third to give Bill Mueller a day off, knocked in Ramon Vazquez and Johnny Damon. Jay Payton, who gave Manny Ramirez a half-day off beginning in the sixth inning, singled in Youkilis. And your right fielder with the .340 average, Trot Nixon, singled in Payton.

That would be all for the Sox, who lost to Scott Etherton, who was pitching in Triple A until Sunday. In his season debut, and his 19th major league start, Etherton matched the longest appearance of his career with 7 1/3 innings.

Wells, in his 423d major league start, lasted a considerably shorter length of time. But, even Varitek said he wasn't concerned with Wells going into the game without a rehab start. Varitek cited the 5{dbcomma} shutout innings Wells tossed last June coming off a three-week stint on the disabled list. Wells threw those shutout innings against none other than the Sox as a member of the San Diego Padres.

''He threw the [heck] out of the ball [that day]," Varitek said. ''He knows himself. It's easy to second-guess and say what should have happened. We just look forward to him in his next outing. We need him."

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