Cliff Lee solid until seventh, surrenders lead as Phillies lose again

Philadelphia Phillies  Photo Day Lee was cruising against the Pirates until a seventh-inning hiccup.

It looked like Cliff Lee’s afternoon was over. The strike-throwing lefty was holding a two-run lead with two outs in the seventh when he surrendered back-to-back singles that cut it to 3-2.

Everyone thought Lee’s day was done. Everyone except for Charlie Manuel.

“I felt like he needed to stay out there because we were short in the bullpen,” Manuel said, noting that Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams and Jeremy Horst were unavailable. “At the same time, he probably would have stayed out there anyway.”

Somehow Lee convinced his skipper to let him face Mike McKenry. Reliever Phillippe Aumont was warming in the bullpen when Manuel trotted out to the mound.

“I told him I was fine and that was it,” Lee said. “Looking back in hindsight you never know, but like I told you before, I never want to come out of the game.”

Lee eventually got out of the jam, one batter later, but the damage was done. Lee could only sit quietly and watch the Phillies fall, 6-4, to the Pirates Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

To Lee’s credit, he did leave his teammates with a chance to win. Let’s face it, a 3-3 tie isn’t exactly the end of the world. However, when the bullpen promptly gift-wraps three runs to Pittsburgh, led by a horrendous three-run eighth off Aumont, there’s not much room for error. Especially not for a Phillies team that came in having scored three or fewer runs in 11 of its last 13 games.

“At some point, it’s cliché, but it’s bound to turn,” Ryan Howard said. “The only thing we can do is keep swinging and keep hitting the ball and sooner or later it all evens itself out.”

The Phillies kept fighting, rallying for a run in the eighth after Howard’s RBI groundout scored Kevin Frandsen. Again, the damage was already done.

Manuel was tossed in the ninth by the third-base umpire for arguing what appeared to be an interference call, as the batter plowed into Phillies catcher Erik Kratz. No call was made.

With the loss, the Phillies fell to 9-14 on the season as they get set to travel to New York for a three-game series with the Mets. Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.28 ERA) draws the start Friday at 7:10 p.m.

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