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ON BASEBALL

Wells not playing blame game

CHICAGO -- There have been few times in David Wells's life when he has not allowed himself full license for his feelings to burst forth, regardless of what havoc that might cause.

This was one of those times. Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino, twice a teammate, approached the lefthander on the mound, both men shaken by what had just happened: A ball that might have been rolled out of a toddler's hand had slipped beneath the glove of Graffanino, an error of a magnitude yet to be determined.

The men spoke briefly, and Wells reached out and brushed the smaller man on the back.

''I didn't say nothin'," Wells said. ''He came up to the mound and just said, 'Pick me up.' I said, 'No problem.' That's what you got to do. You can't . . . you're upset, yeah, but you can't show any emotions out there. I'm not going to show him up. He's played great for us since he's been here. I've known Tony for a long time.

''You know those things are going to happen in a game. You pick each other up through the season. That's why they call it teamwork. I didn't do it. I'm sure he feels bad, but I feel worse, because I didn't pick him up."

Instead, two batters after Graffanino whiffed on Juan Uribe's grounder, Tadahito Iguchi, a 30-year-old White Sox rookie second baseman from Japan, hit a hanging Wells curveball into the left-field seats for a three-run home run, a blast that pinned a shocking 5-4 defeat on Wells and unwanted notoriety on Graffanino.

''You don't point the finger at anybody," Wells said. ''You point at anything, point at me, because I'm the one who gave up the home run."

Wells was standing in the tunnel outside the visitors' clubhouse in US Cellular Field, his back against the wall in the middle of a cluster of cameras. Across the hall in the interview room, Iguchi, a player the Sox had tried out last December and found wanting, was describing how he'd been fooled all year by Wells's curveballs, but not this one, not the one he hit into the left-field seats, the one that Wells tried to quick-pitch past him.

Inside the clubhouse, the Red Sox were quietly dressing, Graffanino absorbing wave after wave of interlopers wondering if he believed, when Uribe beat Wells's pitch softly into the ground in his direction, that he would be able to turn an inning-ending double play.

Wells, who had already seen a 4-0 lead in the fifth halved by three White Sox hits and an infield out, certainly expected that outcome.

''Of course," he said. ''It was a squibber, right at him. He was coming in, moving. He tried to shuffle the ball [to shortstop Edgar Renteria]. Anything can happen at that time. It didn't happen. I gave up the home run. End of the story."

The end of the story, of course, awaits its author. Wells pitched until there were two out in the seventh, then was lifted for Jonathan Papelbon. In that moment, he made no effort to disguise his disgust with manager Terry Francona. ''I wanted to kill him, to be honest with you," Wells said.

But the Sox, if they are to engineer another implausible comeback, like the one they pulled off after falling behind, 0-2, to Oakland in 2003 and then last year, in the mother of them all, against the Yankees, may need Wells again. With Matt Clement's collapse in Game 1, it's possible the Sox will ask the 42-year-old lefthander to come back on three days' rest to pitch Game 5, if it comes to that.

''We'll see how I feel," Wells said. ''This was a pretty intense game. Emotions were riding high. We'll have to see how I feel the next couple of days, see how I respond. I'm sure I have [pitched on three days' rest] but I don't remember."

Wells was not here, of course, for either of those storied comebacks. He, like Clement, were imported to compensate for the departures of Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez. Five days into October, the best-laid plans of Theo Epstein have not followed the script.

''Maybe this is our year," said White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks, who with his searing 100-mile-per-hour heat had recorded the last six outs of a Red Sox defeat that sends them back to Boston a game away from elimination in their American League Division Series. ''That's the only way you can look at it.'

The Red Sox, however, are not yet ready to concede that the expiration date is about to expire on the White Sox' 88-year wait for a title, not after all it took for the Olde Towne Team to win last year.

''I'm sure they're relying heavily [on last year]," said Wells, who freely mixed his ''we's" with ''they's" when talking about his current employer. ''They've been in this situation before. I think they have to go out there and prove to the fans once again and themselves once again that this can be done.

''Like I said, they're not giving up. They're a positive group here. We don't take anything for granted. We just go out there and play ball. We're not going to sweat it. We'll go out there, have some fun tomorrow on the offday, laugh like we always do, joke around like we always do, and go out and have some fun."

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