NEW YORK – R.A. Dickey's first pitch of the game was elusive, fooling catcher Mike Nickeas and skittering to the backstop. Phillies star Jimmy Rollins had trouble with the next knuckleball, falling to one knee after a hard swing and miss.
Dickey did well enough for seven innings. Too bad for him, Cliff Lee was even better.
Lee struck out 10 and Philadelphia regained its winning touch, denting Dickey's chances at the NL Cy Young Award and beating the New York Mets 3-1 Monday night.
"The way that he has been throwing the last month, month and a half, you knew it was probably going to be a tight game," Dickey said. "The margin of error decreases when he's pitching."
Jimmy Rollins homered with the help of video replay and Domonic Brown also hit a solo shot off Dickey (18-6). The Phillies pulled within 3½ games of idle St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot, though other teams are also in their path.
The Mets have dropped nine of 10 overall, and fell to 4-22 at home since the All-Star break.
Lee, who earned his first victory of the season July 4 at Citi Field, became the latest pitcher to shut down the Mets in their own ballpark. New York has scored three runs or fewer in a team-record 14 straight home games.
A bit much for Dickey to overcome.
"You feel for him, because all he's done is given himself a chance to win a baseball game," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We'll go back at the end of the year and recount the number of games where he didn't get a decision, or he's allowed us an opportunity to win, and hopefully it doesn't get back to bite him too bad."
Dickey missed a chance to tie Washington's Gio Gonzalez for the major league lead in wins, and has lost two decisions in a row for the first time this year. Dickey projects to get three more starts this season.
The right-hander allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out eight — he has 205 this year, one behind NL leader Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers — and lowered his ERA a tad to a league-best 2.67.
While Dickey may not be focused on the other Cy Young contenders, he's certainly aware of their performances. As a kid, he scanned the newspaper for the results. Now, he has a personal stake in them.
"From early on in my life, I've always been a fan of boxscores. Growing up, I remember sitting at the table with my grandfather, looking at the Tennessean and tracking Shawon Dunston as he tried to hit .300 for a season. So yes, I do look at the boxscores.
"I don't know if I pay particular attention to who's doing what and how that affects me. That does not change the way that I go about my business, so it doesn't do me any good to wish bad for them or good for them or whatever else. I just need to take care of me, and that's what I've tried to do consistently," he said.
Lee (6-7) turned in his fifth straight sharp start, allowing seven hits over eight innings. He was in control, as always, with one walk. He has gone 14 consecutive starts with no more than one free pass.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances.
Rollins eventually struck out to begin the game, but reached on Nickeas' passed ball. Dickey made a wild toss on his fourth pickoff try to first base and Rollins later scored on Chase Utley's sacrifice fly.
Rollins hit a drive over right fielder Scott Hairston's outstretched glove at the top of the wall in the fifth and pulled into third base with an apparent triple. After a brief look at the replay, the umpires waved him to the plate. Rollins has 21 home runs this year, six this month.
Brown led off the seventh with his fourth homer.
"I gave up one long ball too many. I actually gave up two, but one would have been too many, too. It's tough when you go up against a guy like that," Dickey said.
The Mets nicked Lee in the fifth. Nickeas put down a perfect bunt on the first pitch and the backup catcher hustled for a single. Dickey sacrificed and Daniel Murphy blooped a two-out single for a run.
That was all for Dickey and the Mets.
"It's unfulfilling. I'm not leaving the park satisfied, that's for sure, especially the way that we've been playing," he said. "I feel like the team looks to me to right the ship, and to not be able to do that is tough. I take that very seriously and tonight was a tough one in that regard."
NOTES: The Phillies are 6-10 against the Mets this year. ... The last team to score three runs or fewer in more consecutive home games than the Mets was Seattle, which went 16 in a row in 2010. ... The Mets' Triple-A affiliate will move from Buffalo to Las Vegas for the next two seasons. Toronto is set to switch its top farm team from Las Vegas to Buffalo. Collins said hitting stats at high altitude in the Pacific Coast League "can be a little deceiving." ... A few rows of temporary seats were added in foul territory, next to the backstop. It's a test for when Citi Field hosts the All-Star game next year.