"It was definitely my fault," Lee said. "I gave up five runs in the first three innings. That's on me right there."
Another starting pitcher victimized early dropped the Phillies back to .500 at 21-21. Their next 20 games are against teams with winning records. It begins Monday when the Washington Nationals arrive at Citizens Bank Park.
For a team that trudged through April with porous hitting and stellar pitching, May has offered a totally different narrative. The Phillies have scored five runs per game in May. (That number was 3.30 in April.) Their pitching staff has a 4.30 ERA in May. (It was 3.03 in April.)
"We've got to be more consistent," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's something we talk about every day."
Lee was consistently good before Sunday, yet the Phillies have lost five of Lee's six starts in 2012. Entering Sunday, he had a 1.95 ERA, which was the lowest for any Phillies pitcher who was winless through his first five starts since 1912. (Boston won the World Series in eight games that year and Hooper was their 25-year-old outfielder.)
Aviles struck again an inning later. He fouled off four Lee pitches before finding the hole with a run-scoring single on the ninth pitch of the at-bat. The final blow was a Jarrod Saltalamacchia three-run bomb onto Ashburn Alley in the third inning that put the game out of reach.
In the two-game losing streak, Phillies starting pitchers allowed 12 runs in 111/3 innings.
"That's going to happen," Manuel said.
Of course, Lee eventually settled down, only for naught. He retired 11 batters in a row at one point and magically finished seven innings despite requiring 66 pitches to slog through the first three.
The damage was irrevocable. The Phillies stranded seven more runners and hit 1 for 9 with men in scoring position, bringing their two-day total to 3 for 21.
The more egregious opportunity to fall by the wayside came in the eighth inning when Ty Wigginton batted with the bases loaded against Vicente Padilla. Manuel had Carlos Ruiz, his team's hottest hitter, sitting on the bench. Manuel said he never considered Ruiz, who ranked third in the National League in batting average, eighth in on-base percentage, and sixth in slugging percentage.
He determined that hitting for Wigginton was not right, despite Ruiz's having smoked a liner off Padilla the night before. It would have scored two runs if not for a miraculous catch by Ryan Sweeney.
"Ty has good numbers against that guy," Manuel said.
Wigginton had hit 6 for 27 (.222) with a home run in 2004 off Padilla, then a member of the Phillies. He also was mired in a three-week slump with a .167 batting average and no extra-base hits in his last 18 games.
On Sunday, he bounced the sixth pitch Padilla threw to second for an easy out and a rally killed.
"It's a situation you want to be in," Wigginton said. "And he did a good job. He kept the ball down and it had a lot of movement."
Wigginton's feeble swing clinched defeat. But Lee already had done enough to deny himself a chance at an elusive victory.
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com or follow @magelb on Twitter.