Nothing beats adding a Cy Young Award winner to your pitching staff at the trading deadline. Just ask the Philadelphia Phillies how good Cliff Lee has been since coming over from the Cleveland Indians late last month.
And how important he might be in the stretch run of the season.
"He's had three real good starts," Phillies catcher Paul Bako said after Lee beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 Thursday to improve to 3-0 with his new team.
"He's going out there and making quality pitches over and over and over. That's going to work against basically any lineup that you're going to face."
Especially one that is struggling like the Cubs, who lost their fifth straight.
The Phillies won all three games at Wrigley Field _ their first sweep in the Cubs' home ball park since winning four in a row in 1984.
Lee, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, allowed one run and six hits over eight innings, and Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz backed him with homers.
"Anytime you go out there and do your job effectively and give your team a chance, you have to be happy with that. I was able to do that today and I've done that since I've been here," Lee said.
The Phillies were swept by the Marlins last weekend at home, but rebounded against the listless Cubs.
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel gave his team a talking-to after losing three straight to the Marlins _ and the World Series champs were definitely listening.
"Charlie doesn't usually talk unless there's something that he feels he needs to address. That was obviously something that he felt like he needed to address and it was kind of a wake-up call," said Howard, whose homer ended a 57 at-bat long-ball drought, tying the longest of his career.
Shane Victorino had two hits and scored twice. The All-Star center fielder had no problems with the crowd, a day after he was doused with beer while catching a fly ball, prompting Victorino to file a police report. Police later charged 21-year-old John Macchione of Barlett, Ill., with one count of battery and one count of illegal conduct within a sports facility.
Victorino also got a personal apology from Cubs chairman Crane Kenney before the game.
Lee struck out eight and walked three to win his sixth straight start overall _ also helping himself with a double.
The Cubs had a swift start after the All-Star break but injuries and lackluster play have put them back in a hole.
"We've been inconsistent," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "That's obvious. We're just not playing good. ... There is only so much talking you can do. It's the middle of August."
Howard hit his 27th homer, a three-run shot off Ryan Dempster (6-6). Two batters later, Feliz added his ninth of the season, a solo drive for a 4-0 lead.
Reds 7, Nationals 0
At Cincinnati, Jonny Gomes homered in his first three at-bats, including a pair of two-run shots, to back Bronson Arroyo's two-hitter.
It is the second time in Gomes' career he hit three homers, and he's the sixth player to hit three homers in a game this season. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen was the last on Aug. 1.
Arroyo (11-11) had been 0-3 his previous four starts. He walked one and hit a batter.
Collin Balester (1-2) allowed three homers and five runs for the second straight start, while Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the seventh.
Brewers 12, Padres 9
At Milwaukee, Prince Fielder and backup catcher Mike Rivera each hit two home runs, and the struggling Brewers built a big lead before hanging on.
Manny Parra (8-8) won his fifth straight decision despite allowing 13 hits in 5 2-3 innings. He took a nine-run lead into the fifth before allowing three runs.
Cesar Carrillo (0-1) allowed every man he put on to score in his major league debut.
Rockies 10, Pirates 1
At Denver Jason Marquis allowed three hits over seven innings, Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes homered and the Rockies finished off a winning series.
Dexter Fowler had four hits _ three of them doubles _ and scored three runs, and Barmes finished with three hits and three RBIs for Colorado.
Marquis (13-8) became the third pitcher in the National League to reach 13 wins. He'd been 0-2 in his previous three starts, but gave up one run and struck out six.
Pittsburgh starter Pat Maholm (6-7) allowed seven runs on 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Marlins 9, Astros 2
At Miami, Jorge Cantu and Ronny Paulino homered for Florida, which has won six of its last seven and remained 4 1/2 games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East.
Sean West (4-4) allowed one run and five hits in six innings for the Marlins, while NL batting leader Hanley Ramirez had two singles and two RBIs for Florida.
Mike Hampton (7-10) gave up three runs and six hits before leaving with a shoulder strain.