Lee struggles as Phillies get swept by Braves

It was a rough night for Cliff Lee, who lasted just five innings, giving up eight hits and four runs - three earned. The Phillies lefthander walked two and struck out eight. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
It was a rough night for Cliff Lee, who lasted just five innings, giving up eight hits and four runs - three earned. The Phillies lefthander walked two and struck out eight. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 06, 2013

One of the bright spots during this sliding Phillies season has been the performance of all-star pitcher Cliff Lee. Yet as the team has struggled recently, Lee has followed a similar pattern.

Making his first start in two weeks because of a stiff neck, Lee showed plenty of rust Sunday night in a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

The lefthander labored through five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. Lee struck out eight and walked two while throwing 95 pitches, 65 for strikes.

The Braves swept three straight from the Phillies, who lost their fifth game in a row. They have dropped 13 of their last 14.

The Phillies appear to be beaten down by the losing.

"We have to have more pride, more fire, play better fundamental baseball," Lee said. "If we do that, we will turn it around."

Manager Charlie Manuel is running out of things to say to his team.

"I will say something to them," he said. "At the moment I don't know what to say."

This was the fourth straight game in which Lee failed to throw at least 100 pitches. In his last four starts, he has allowed 16 earned runs in 241/3 innings.

Lee set the tone for his evening by allowing two first-inning runs while throwing 25 pitches. Jason Heyward walked to lead off the game and advanced to second on Freddie Freeman's one-out single. Both moved up a base on Carlos Ruiz's passed ball.

After Lee struck out Phillies-killer Brian McCann for the second out, Chris Johnson delivered an opposite-field, two-run single to right.

"It took him a while before he got his command going," Manuel said of Lee. "I'm sure he will do better his next time."

The Phillies were limited to four hits in being swept for the fifth time this season.

"We have to show more hungriness when we are hitting," Manuel said.

In the fourth inning, Lee couldn't put the Braves away, allowing two runs with two outs. Heyward's RBI single on a hanging 0-2 curve was followed by an RBI double by Justin Upton.

In his last outing, a 5-0 loss on July 21 to the New York Mets at Citi Field, Lee allowed five earned runs, all with two outs.

Lee left Sunday's game trailing by 4-1 after five innings, although he wasn't helped by the Phillies offense or baserunning in his final inning.

John Mayberry Jr. reached base on an error to open the fifth and advanced to second when Ruiz walked. John McDonald, pinch-hitting for Lee, lined to center for the first out. Michael Young then struck out and the inning ended when Mayberry was picked off second base by pitcher Alex Wood.

The only run the Phillies provided for Lee came on Young's RBI groundout in the third. Young knocked in Ruiz, who was initially awarded a home run to lead off the inning; after an umpires' review, he had to settle for a double. The ball hit the padding on the wall but didn't go over the small fence in left.

Not to be outdone, B.J. Upton had to settle for a double after originally being awarded a home run to right in the fourth. The ball went over the fence, but a fan reached over to catch it. So Upton's streak of not hitting a home run since June 15 remained intact.

Like Ruiz, Upton eventually scored.


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.

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