Mets unable to solve Lee and Phillies' offense

Mets unable to solve Lee and Phillies' offense

Mets unable to solve Lee and Phillies' offense
NEW YORK -- Since Chase Utley rejoined the Phillies on June 27, the team had lost six consecutive games.

That streak was snapped on Wednesday.

In 13 previous starts, Cliff Lee had yet to earn his first win of the season.

Scratch that one off, too.

Philadelphia put an end to both with three runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings at Citi Field, cruising to a 9-2 Independence Day win over their division rivals in front of 28,687.

Trailing 2-0, Utley hit a game-tying two-run home run off Chris Young in the seventh inning and Carlos Ruiz followed suit in the very next at-bat to put the Phillies up, 3-2. Three insurance runs in the eighth -- an RBI double by Jimmy Rollins followed by back-to-back RBI singles by Ruiz and Hunter Pence -- and three more in the ninth, and the Phillies evened the midweek series at a game apiece.

"It's about time," Utley said. "Cliff pitched well today. He gave up a home run early [to Scott Hairston] and another run. But he stuck with his game plan. He pounded the strike zone and made them put the ball in play. He gave us a chance to get back into the game like we did."

Lee delivered eight quality innings for the Phillies, allowing two runs on seven hits and striking out nine -- seven looking.

"As soon as they took the lead, you kind of saw a different side of him," Mets catcher Mike Nickeas said. "He was throwing a lot of curveballs 3-2 and starting to really get nasty with it. He's a tremendous pitcher, and he beat us."

But before the Phillies' offense awoke in the latter innings, Young was even better and allowed just two hits without walking a batter through his first six innings of work. But as has been the trend, the Phillies picked up on his deception and capitalized late.

"Late in the game, you've got to be able to bury something or do something to keep them off balance," manager Terry Collins said. "One thing Chris does, when he pitches up in the zone, he gets fly balls. All of a sudden late in the game, not last time but a couple starts before that, all of a sudden the ball gets down late in the game in the areas where they can get better swings at them."

This season, opponents are hitting .176 in their first plate appearance against Young, .281 in their second and .368 in their third.

"It's one of those things where I would like to execute better," Young said. "I'd like to be better at that point in the game, and I think I will be as the season progresses. It's my sixth start after missing a year from surgery, and there's certainly room for improvement."

Young's three-run seventh didn't put the Mets out of contention, though. Their bullpen did.

After Collins opted to pinch-hit Ronny Cedeno for Young in the bottom of the seventh, Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak and Jeremy Hefner combined to allow six earned runs over the final two innings as the Mets' bullpen ERA ballooned to 5.11 on the season -- the worst in the Majors.

In comparison, Lee pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning for the Phillies -- including a disputed called third strike against David Wright -- before Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in the ninth.

"It's baseball, you have disagreements quite frequently," Wright said about his comments to home-plate umpire Tim Timmons. "You have difference in opinions here and there, especially when it's a frustrating game, having the lead and then losing it and knowing that when Cliff Lee's on the mound you have to be close to perfect."

With the loss, the Mets fell to 11-19 against left-handed starters this season, compared to 33-19 against righties.

Of the Mets seven hits, Ruben Tejada had two. Batting in the leadoff spot for the second consecutive game, Tejada finished 2-for-4 with a double. Since returning from the disabled list on June 24, he is hitting .395 (17-for-43) over a span of 10 games.

On paper, Wednesday afternoon's game shows a blowout win by the Phillies -- Lee's first of the season -- that snapped a losing streak and finally got one of baseball's most respected pitchers into the win column.

"I think you guys made more of a big deal out of it than I did," Lee said after the game. "I keep things simple. I try to give the team a chance to win every time. I would have loved to have had a win a long time ago. To me, it wasn't as big a deal as you guys wanted it to be for me."

Either way, Philadelphia's six-game losing streak is history at the expense of the New York Mets.

Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.