The last-place Philadelphia Phillies figure to get a boost in the rotation with Cliff Lee scheduled to come off the disabled list in time to start tonight's finale of a three-game series versus the New York Mets.
Lee has been sidelined since late April with a left oblique strain and will make just his fourth start of the 2012 campaign. He worked overtime in his last start, a 1-0 loss at San Francisco back on April 18, and threw 10 scoreless innings, Lee did not factor in the decision after the bullpen imploded and is 0-1 with a 1.96 earned run average.
The southpaw and 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, Lee did not walk a batter for the second straight outing and has struck out seven batters in back-to-back outings. Lee lost to the Mets in a 5-2 decision on April 13, when he allowed four runs in seven innings of work. He has lasted at least six innings in each start this season and owns a 2-1 mark with a 1.61 ERA through four career starts against New York. Lee will be on a pitch count tonight.
Philadelphia could use a boost right about now and sits last in the National League East -- the division it has won each of the past five years. It will try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the rival Mets, who rallied again for a 7-4 victory last night after opening the set with a 5-2 come-from-behind triumph on Monday. The Phillies were ahead by a 4-1 score until the seventh inning, when New York scored four runs to take the lead for good.
Phils reliever Chad Qualls blew his second straight save and third of the season to suffer the loss and starter Joe Blanton was reached for four runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings with seven K's and three walks. As for the offense, Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer and has gone deep four times in his last five games. Pete Orr had two hits and an RBI for Philadelphia, which has dropped four of its last five games and is to 0-2 on an eight-game homestand.
"First of all, I think we're tight. I think we try too hard and I think that's why we swing at pitches out of the zone," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "When you have to do something, that's how you feel -- you have to do it. We'll be OK if we just relax."
Manuel's club will also host San Diego and Houston in south Philly.
New York has been on a roll lately with four straight wins since a four-game slide and has scored at least three runs in the past five contests.
Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both drove in two runs, while David Wright and Daniel Murphy also knocked in a run for New York, which benefited from Orr's throwing error during a four-run seventh inning. Nieuwenhuis, Wright and Duda all plated runs with singles during the frame.
"We got down early and they just stayed with it. (They) didn't try to do too much and just tried to put the ball in play and make things happen," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Miguel Batista, who took over Mike Pelfrey's spot in the rotation for the time being, avoided the loss after he surrendered four runs -- two earned -- and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. Manny Acosta collected the win by getting the final two outs in the sixth inning and Jon Rauch later nailed down his first save in the ninth.
The Mets are just 1 1/2 games off the NL East lead and will head to Miami for a three-game series this weekend.
Dillon Gee has been able to keep New York's bullpen at ease with four straight performances of six innings or better. Gee will try to extend that streak when he toes the rubber for the Mets Wednesday.
Gee did not record a decision in his most recent start, a 5-4 loss versus Arizona last Friday. He held the Diamondbacks to a pair of runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts over six frames. Gee, who is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts this season, hopes to keep his unblemished road mark intact at Philadelphia.
The right-hander is 2-0 in two road outings this season and 2-1 with a less desirable 7.85 ERA in four career games (3 starts) against the Phillies.
New York has prevailed in seven of the last nine matchups with the Phillies, going 4-1 so far this season.