"I wish I had the answer to that," manager Charlie Manuel said, "because I would get him some runs."
Lee's sudden inability to throw a strike Saturday was stunning. Before the third inning began, he had walked three of the last 268 batters he had faced. He walked three of the next four hitters. It marked the third time in 288 career games he walked three in one inning.
The Cardinals are Lee's demons. They overcame a four-run deficit against him in Game 2 of the 2011 National League division series. In the last three seasons, Lee has walked three or more in six starts. Three of them are against St. Louis.
He started the third inning with a walk to St. Louis' No. 8 hitter, Pete Kozma, who had not walked since opening day. The pitcher, Lance Lynn, handed him an out with a failed bunt attempt. Shane Robinson, making his first start of the season, walked on five pitches. Carlos Beltran flied to center, and Lee was one out away from escaping.
But Matt Holliday walked to load the bases. Allen Craig smacked a fastball up the middle for a two-run single. Weirdness ensued.
Yadier Molina poked a routine grounder toward the hole on the right side. Chase Utley hurried to his right, away from the ball, and it skipped into right field for an RBI single. Utley froze. The runners were not moving before the pitch, so there was no reason for Utley to head in the opposite direction of the batted ball. It was a rare momentary lapse in judgment by the second baseman.
It cost his team two runs. After Molina's run-scoring single, David Freese slapped another fastball to right that scored another for a five-run inning.
"The Cardinals have a good-hitting team," Manuel said. "They'll stand there and scrap you. They stay with you."
Lee had not walked three batters in an inning since Sept. 15, 2009. They hurt him Saturday; all three eventually scored. The manager cited the chilly weather as a factor, saying Lee had difficulty finding a feel for his fastball. But Lee pitched in cooler temperatures during his first start of 2013 in Atlanta and tossed eight shutout innings.
"I'm not going to sit here and make excuses," Lee said Saturday. "... I let it get away from me. I've got to do a better job of getting ahead and staying ahead of the hitter."
"He had the ball up most of the night," Manuel said.
Two innings later, Beltran smacked his 30th career home run against the Phillies, the most for any active player. Lee was done after five innings. That snapped a 20-start streak of at least six innings pitched with one or fewer walks, the longest such run in baseball history. (Christy Mathewson and Greg Maddux held the old record of 14 straight starts.)
The cold temperatures chased many fans from the seats. A stiff breeze blew their trash across the field. It was that kind of night.
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @magelb.