It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate their interest. It was just that he wasn’t sure what he had left to offer them. “Not at all,” David Wells said on Thursday night, just after pitching the Dodgers to what will go down as their biggest win of the season, at least until the next one. “When you haven’t picked up a ball for three weeks, a lot of stuff goes through your mind. I never doubted my ability to go out and pitch. But it was a matter of whether I could still be sharp with my pitches.” In his fourth start since the Dodgers signed him without much in the way of expectations, Wells was sharp enough for six innings – and the bullpen was lights-out enough for three more – to lift the Dodgers to a 6-3 victory over the San Diego Padres before 44,496 at Dodger Stadium. The result was that the Dodgers, once written off as dead in the hunt for a playoff spot, moved within 11/2 games of the wild card-leading Padres with 16 to go. Wells might be something of a broken-down jalopy, as evidenced by the fact he got thrown out trying to advance from second to third in the third inning on a grounder to the right side. But as broken-down jalopies go, this guy makes a pretty good big-game pitcher. “He has pitched in so many of them, and you know he isn’t going to get rattled,” Dodgers center fielder Juan Pierre said. “The most important thing is that he never loses his composure. He might give up some hits or whatever, but he always keeps his composure. It’s great to have a guy like that out there, because he has been to the heights. There isn’t too much that he hasn’t seen. BASEBALL: Veteran pitcher goes six innings. Loney, Furcal do the rest to beat the Padres. By Tony Jackson STAFF WRITER The old man arrived as something of a shadow of his former self, and a fairly large shadow at that. He hadn’t performed well in his previous stop, and by his own admission, he was less surprised by the fact he wasn’t there anymore than he was by the fact that someone else – specifically, the Dodgers – actually wanted him. “He gave us the lift we needed to win this series.” Wells didn’t come close to a complete game, nor did he approach 100 pitches. For him, at 44, those days are buried in the distant past. What he did, though, was give the Dodgers five innings of one-hit domination, and by the time he ran out of gas and gave up three runs in the sixth, he had given the offensively resurgent Dodgers enough time to have the game well in hand after they exploded for six runs off the equally legendary Greg Maddux. James Loney went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs on a double and a two-run single, making him 9-for-13 in the series. The rookie raised his average to .329 in the process. Shortstop Rafael Furcal also was a catalyst. He went 1-for-3, with three stolen bases and three runs scored. Wells improved to 3-0 with a 3.91 ERA since Aug. 24, the day the Dodgers woke him up from his assumed retirement with a contract offer. That came exactly 15 days after the Padres – whose starting rotation appears to have fallen into disarray down the stretch – understandably designated him for assignment. “It was nice to do it against them,” Wells said. While it may be true that Wells (8-8) no longer has the overpowering stuff of younger hot shots like Brad Penny and Chad Billingsley, what he has is more than two decades of experience, of knowing exactly how to maximize the results of whatever stuff he does have left. “He is a strike-thrower, and he changes speeds,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “His general game is giving up hits, but when he has runners on base, he makes the big pitches to get out of jams. He knows how to make big pitches when he needs to, and he has done that his whole career. “It gives the whole team a little more confidence when you have a guy with that kind of credentials out there.” Wells left for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth. Scott Proctor, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito, who earned his 38th save, combined to retire the final nine Padres batters. The Dodgers (77-69) host division-leading Arizona for three games this weekend. Although winning the NL West now seems like something of a fantasy for the third-place Dodgers, who trail the Diamondbacks by 51/2 games, the two teams will play each other six more times beginning tonight, so anything can still happen. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!