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09/05/09 6:48 PM ET

In rookie season, Wells showing stuff

Chicago (68-66) at New York (61-75), 12:10 p.m. CT

NEW YORK -- The Cubs will look to win their third consecutive series on Sunday behind Randy Wells, the rookie that has arguably been their best pitcher this season.

Wells has emerged as the unlikely ace of the Cubs' staff, leading the starters with a 2.90 ERA and tied for the team lead with 10 wins. It's not exactly what anybody -- not even Wells -- expected in a rotation featuring three All-Stars and Rich Harden.

Wells has been terrific as a starter since he was called up in May. Even as Wells limped to an 0-3 record in his first seven starts, he had a 2.55 ERA. Improved run support and a better bullpen have helped him go 10-4 in his past 14 trips to the mound.

What may be the most impressive thing about Wells' season has been his ability to bounce back from poor outings -- rare for a rookie. He showed that in his most start against Houston, rebounding from a subpar day the start before vs. Washington. After allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings to the Nationals, Wells gave up one run on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Astros to pick up his 10th win.

Wells said he learned a few lessons from the loss to the Nationals.

"I was just really trying to force it in that one start," Wells said. "I was flying open and it kind of caused everything else to come unraveled. I took a valuable lesson out of that one start where you don't abandon your best pitch just because you're not up to par in that first inning. Give it a chance to figure it out and make the adjustments in-game."

In Wells' loss to Washington, he gave up a walk, RBI double and two-run homer to his first three batters. The first inning has been Wells' biggest problem this year. Opponents are hitting .317 off him in the opening frame, and he's surrendered 13 first-inning runs in 21 starts.

That wasn't an issue against the Astros, who managed only an unearned run in the seventh off of Wells.

"That's been the reason for my success," Wells said. "Tough losses or the tough games I've had, they don't bother me. [Big league hitters] are going to figure you out some days, and when they do, you've got to figure out what they did to be successful against you and fix it."

Wells' prolonged success has earned him a place alongside the Phillies' J.A. Happ and the Braves' Tommy Hanson in a challenging Rookie of the Year race in the National League. Happ is 10-4 with a 2.77 ERA while Hanson is 9-3 with a 3.07 ERA.

"I never wanted to talk about all the Rookie of the Year [stuff], but you know, we're kind of coming to the point now where, why not? Why not make a run at it?" Wells said. "Try to win out and keep pitching well and, hopefully, things work out."

Wells is looking to become the second consecutive Cub to be Rookie of the Year after catcher Geovany Soto took home the award last season. The last Cubs pitcher to win the award was Kerry Wood in 1998.

However it works out, Wells has cherished his rookie season.

"Every game is exciting for me," Wells said. "I like to think that my whole career will be like that, too. Coming from where I came from and the road I took to get here, I can honestly say at this point that I don't ever see it becoming a drag for me. I love showing up every day. I love the excitement of being a big league baseball player."

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Randy Wells (10-7, 2.90 ERA)
Wells is the first Cubs rookie to reach double-digit victories since 1998, when Wood won 13 games. The Cubs want to be careful with Wells and his innings. He has already exceeded his personal high in the Minor Leagues and has thrown six or more innings in four consecutive starts. Drafted by the Mets in 2001 -- he didn't sign -- Wells has never faced the Mets.

NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (9-10, 5.03 ERA)
Pelfrey has taken a step back in his two most recent starts, losing both. More importantly, he developed serious control issues. He has walked five batters twice this season -- Aug. 26 against the Marlins and Tuesday against the Rockies. He allowed seven runs -- six earned -- on six hits and five walks at Coors Field on Tuesday, walking two batters after getting ahead 0-2, and walking three men in the first inning to produce a run. Manager Jerry Manuel has attributed the struggles to youth, but he also has emphasized that Pelfrey needs to show he can bounce back and deliver again to avoid concerns about his security in the Mets' rotation in 2010. Pelfrey has never pitched against the Cubs. He has a 5-3 record and 3.80 ERA in 14 starts at Citi Field.

Saturday was Harden's 10th career double-digit strikeout game. ... Derrek Lee got into New York about 12:30 a.m. ET on Saturday and received congratulations on the birth of his son, Dylan, from many of his teammates prior to the game. ... After Saturday, Lee has 21 career multihomer games and three in 2009. ... Cubs starting pitchers have a 0.84 ERA the most recent time through the rotation.

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Up next
• Monday: Cubs (Ted Lilly, 10-8, 3.17) at Pirates (Daniel McCutchen, 0-0, 4.50), 11:35 a.m. CT
• Tuesday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 8-8, 3.96) at Pirates (Charlie Morton, 3-7, 5.43), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 7-6, 3.80) at Pirates (Zach Duke, 10-13, 3.71), 11:35 a.m. CT

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.