"I can't believe it," Lee told Phillies manager Charlie Manuel after he took the ball from him in the seventh.
"I agree with you," Manuel replied.
Lee pitched beautifully through five scoreless innings and escaped a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the sixth, thanks to a spectacular play from third baseman Kevin Frandsen and an inning-ending double play, to maintain a 1-0 lead.
But the Reds finally got him in the seventh. Lee, who allowed nine hits, three runs (two earned), one walk and struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings, is 2-7 with a 3.78 ERA. He allowed a leadoff double to Scott Rolen and then walked Todd Frazier. Ryan Hanigan singled to score Rolen to tie the game at 1. Howard could not catch the cutoff throw, which allowed the runners to advance a base. That turned Zack Cozart's pop fly into a sacrifice fly to score Frazier and make it 2-1.
"Actually I felt like the big play of the game was when the runners got to advance on the cutoff play," Manuel said.
Lee has maintained throughout the year he is not frustrated, although he chucked his glove as he headed up the tunnel into the Phillies' clubhouse. One certainly wonders how much he would like to fast forward through the rest of the season and start fresh in 2013.
Lee's .222 winning percentage is the lowest in baseball for pitchers with 20 or more starts this season. He also is the only pitcher with 20 or more starts and only two wins.
The Phillies are 7-15 (.318) in his starts this season. They were 22-10 (.688) last season.
"It's definitely been a strange year," Lee said. "I really don't care about my numbers to be honest with you. I just care about winning. It's just been one of those years. Usually there's a guy on each team that things don't really go his way, and that happens to be me this year. I'm not going to make excuses or feel sorry for myself."
The Phillies have scored just 57 runs for Lee when he has been in the game, so it's not like he has been staked to a lot of big leads. But the offense bailed him out in the seventh, when it scored a couple of runs on Jimmy Rollins' double, to tie the game at 3. They had a chance to take the lead in the inning, but with Ty Wigginton on third and one out, Pierre pushed a bunt too close to Reds pitcher Sean Marshall, who threw to home plate to get Wigginton in plenty of time.
"It was just a bad bunt," Pierre said.
Bastardo allowed a homer to Frazier in the eighth to give the Reds a one-run lead, and after Frandsen tied it in the bottom half of the inning with his first triple of the season, Papelbon allowed a homer to Cozart in the ninth to give the Reds the victory.
Bastardo has a 6.75 ERA (32 runs in 42 2/3 innings) in 55 appearances since Sept. 3 last year. Papelbon has been one of the team's lone bright spots this season, but Cozart drilled a first-pitch fastball into the left-field seats seemingly seconds after Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" -- Papelbon's intro music -- stopped playing over the ballpark's PA system.
"I think it was me coming into a situation and overthinking," Papelbon said. "My job isn't to go out there and overthink. My job is to go out there and execute pitches. That's basically what it boils down to. I'm thinking in a tie ballgame the leadoff hitter is probably going to maybe take one and try to manufacture a run off me. Instead of me giving in and saying I'm going to throw a strike, I've got to execute a better strike."
"That was some ballgame," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They didn't quit. You see why they've won so many division championships in a row."
In the past the Phillies might have won that game, but not Tuesday.