Lee posted 10 shutout innings, but the Phillies lost to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants, 1-0, in 11 innings on April 18.
"You can't dictate wins and losses as a starting pitcher," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He pitched 10 shutout innings. What more can you do?"
Lee's most recent playoff game and that long, late night in San Francisco are likely the two starts that currently stick with Phils fans. They were gut-punching losses, and while different in severity, similar in that defeats are tougher to forget than wins are to remember.
Since Lee made a surprising return as a free agent three Decembers ago, forming the rotation of aces, the Phillies have won two playoff games. Needless to say, the high expectations have yielded disappointing results.
Lee and the veteran core of the Phillies are older and their division rivals have gotten better. But the moxie Lee first showed in the 2009 postseason is still intact.
"We have our work cut out for us," Lee said, crediting the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. "But if we're healthy and doing what we need to do, we can beat anyone."
This is Clifton Phifer Lee.
While some players might like to spout off bulletin-board material one year and talk about having a chip on their shoulder the next, the 34-year-old Arkansas native doesn't get mixed up in emotions. Whether the Phillies have reeled off a 10-game winning streak or have spent an entire month in last place, Lee's mood ring remains vanilla.
But Lee's default, nonchalant attitude shouldn't be misinterpreted as a lack of caring, or in his confidence with the ever-changing team that surrounds him.
Others might look at the 2012 season and see a colossal disappointment. Lee sees a team hit especially hard by injuries.
"You take the 3-4 hole out of any team and they're going to feel that," Lee said, referring to the injuries that kept Chase Utley and Ryan Howard sidelined for the majority of the first half. "I don't care what team. That's tough to overcome. I don't think we ever used it as an excuse, but looking back, that was tough to overcome. Hopefully we can get those guys healthy and with us all year, that's going to make a huge difference."
Before Howard and Utley played in their first game together, on July 6, the Phillies were in last place, 10 games under .500 and 13 games back of Washington. The last half of their collective absence coincided with Roy Halladay's own stay on the disabled list.
Without Halladay, the Phils went from a team hovering at .500 to one struggling to fight off life support.
Some might look at Halladay's season as the first in the declining years of the longtime ace; Halladay turns 36 in May. Lee sees a World Series-hungry pitcher as determined as ever to dominate again.
"I think he's going to come back this year and prove that last year was a fluke and get back to being the pitcher he's been forever," Lee said.
Lee was then reminded of Halladay's age and career workload.
"That's all true,'' Lee said. "But he's also a competitor and works really hard and holds himself to a really high standard. He's not going to accept the way things were last year. That's not going to be the way he ends up. He's going to turn it around. There's no doubt in my mind."
While the Nationals and Braves produced the headline moves this winter, Lee is similarly upbeat about the additions Ruben Amaro Jr. and company made in the offseason.
"I love every move they made," said Lee, who threw to hitters for the first time in 2013 in a live batting-practice session Tuesday morning. "[Ben] Revere in centerfield, he has unbelievable speed. And we've got control of him for a while. Mike Young, I played with him in Texas; unbelievable teammate and person. I can't say enough about the guy. He's going to help us out a lot, in a lot of ways.
"Our bullpen: [Mike] Adams and [Chad] Durbin, it makes us that much more experienced and deeper. And even Delmon Young, too. If he comes back and plays the way he can, I like it."
Lee could have reason to be as discouraged and downtrodden as any diehard Phillies fan. He pitched in back-to-back World Series in 2009 (with the Phillies) and 2010 (Texas) and expected the long Octobers to continue when he rejoined a Phillies team that already had aces and MVPs.
But he's pitched in one playoff game since returning, the game that got away from him against the Cardinals two autumns ago. In the year that followed, Lee didn't win his first game until Independence Day and finished 6-9 in 30 starts.
The record, of course, was misleading.
Lee threw over 200 innings for the fifth straight year, finished in the top 10 of the National League in ERA (3.16) and strikeouts (207). He led all major league pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.39); Lee struck out 65 while walking just four in his final nine starts.
"His numbers, you put them up with good run support, and in any given year he might win 20 [games]," Dubee said. "Who knows how the games play out?"
The games, much like the seasons, are often out of an individual player's control. For a pitcher, low run support or an ineffective bullpen can sink your chances of winning; for a team, injuries can sink your hopes of returning to the playoffs before you even reach the All-Star break.
Lee looks at the clubhouse he's in and at the landscape of the NL East and he's as confident as ever that the team can right itself in 2013.
"We all have the same record right now," Lee said. "Every team in baseball should be thinking they're going to win the division and win the World Series. That's the beauty of it. Last year we were supposed to be [the team to beat], and we weren't. The Nationals came on strong and took it from us, so obviously they're the team to beat this year. They've got a great team. So do the Braves. We'll see what happens."
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21