Stellar Lee brings Phils closer in Wild Card hunt

Stellar Lee brings Phils closer in Wild Card hunt

Stellar Lee brings Phils closer in Wild Card hunt
NEW YORK -- Cliff Lee described the Phillies' flight to New York on Sunday following a disastrous weekend series in Houston as perfectly normal.

Why worry now?

"Nobody here is happy about the way that series went, but there's nothing we can do about it," Lee said following Monday's 3-1 victory over the New York Mets at Citi Field, which moved the Phillies within 3 1/2 games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot with 14 games to play. "We've got three or four teams ahead of us that we've got to catch and pass. It's definitely not where we want to be, but we've still got a chance. Considering how we played the first half, we're pretty lucky to be where we are right now to be honest with you."

The Phillies dropped three of four to the lowly Astros, but they could not change that Monday. They only could hope to get on another roll.

"We bounced back tonight," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Of course, when you get that kind of pitching, it's not that hard."

Lee dominated the Mets, who are 4-22 at home since the All-Star break. He allowed seven hits, one run, one walk and struck out 10 in eight innings. He struck out his 1,500th career batter when he got Jason Bay in the second inning.

Lee is 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his last seven starts, improving his record to 6-7 with a 3.27 ERA. He has allowed 45 hits, nine earned runs, four walks and struck out 54 in his last 49 2/3 innings.

"I feel like I'm the same guy, trying to do the same things," Lee said. "For whatever reason, early in the season, I wasn't getting many breaks. Things weren't going my way. One thing is I gave up quite a bit of homers early on, so eliminating that was big."

Lee allowed 19 homers in his first 140 1/3 innings this season (one every 7.4 innings). He has allowed three in his last 49 2/3 innings (one every 16.6 innings).

Lee looked like the guy that finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last season, outpitching Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who is a favorite to win the award this season. Dickey allowed five hits, three runs, two walks, two home runs and struck out eight in seven innings.

"Cliff's got such rich pedigree, you know you're in for a pitchers' duel when you're going against him," Dickey said. "The way that he's been throwing the last month, month and a half, you knew it was probably going to be a tight game. So the margin of error decreases [for the other pitcher] when he's pitching, and tonight that was the case."

The Phillies (74-74) took a 1-0 lead in the first. Jimmy Rollins hustled to first base on a passed ball after striking out. He advanced to second on Dickey's throwing error on a pickoff attempt and moved to third on a fielder's choice.

Rollins scored on Chase Utley's sacrifice fly to center field.

Rollins handed the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning when he hit a solo home run to right-center field. Upon first glance, it looked like the ball might have hit off the top of the wall and bounced back onto the field, which caused Rollins to stop at third. But the ball actually hit the top of the roof of the Mets' bullpen in right-center field. The umpires took a look at instant replay, and 1 minute, 22 seconds later, they returned with the correct call:

Home run.

Rollins has hit safely in 14 of 16 games this month. It was his team-leading 21st homer of the season.

"It was big to get back to .500," Rollins said on his way out of the clubhouse.

Domonic Brown hit his fourth homer of the season in the seventh inning to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead. He also tripled in the fourth. He entered the night hitless in five at-bats against Dickey.

"Last time, I lined out a couple times," Brown said. "I felt pretty good against him. ... He can throw the knuckleball where he wants to throw it, so the second two at-bats, I was just saying, 'Man, I'm just going to let it eat. If I see it up, I'm just swinging at it.' That's all it was -- seeing it and hitting it."

Brown let it eat, Lee did his thing and the Phillies won. They still need a minor miracle to make the postseason for the sixth consecutive year, but they gave themselves reason to continue the fight with a victory Monday.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.