On a day when family and friends come together to celebrate the country's independence, Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee hopes to set off some fireworks off his own this afternoon when he tries again for his first win of the season in the continuation of a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.
Lee has made 13 starts this season and has allowed four or more runs in each of his previous four starts. At 0-5 with a 4.13 earned run average in 2012 and 0-4 with a 5.68 ERA in his last eight starts, Lee is a little frustrated with how things are going.
"We've been in last place from the start till now, so I don't think anyone is really happy with how things have gone as a group," Lee told the club's site "Definitely, for me individually and as a team, I don't think anyone is really happy with how it's gone."
The Phillies are 3-10 when the recipient of a five-year, $120 million contract takes the mound in 2012. Lee hasn't been able to pick up the slack with ace Roy Halladay on the disabled list and has been reached for five-plus runs in three consecutive outings. He had a career-high four consecutive starts with five or more earned runs (11.70 ERA) with Cleveland back in July 2007.
The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner allowed six runs and 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings of a 6-2 loss at Miami on Friday. Lee has already faced the Mets three times this season, going 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. In six career starts against the nearby NL East rivals, Lee is 2-1 to go along with a 2.25 ERA.
Philadelphia could use just about anything right now for a spark and perhaps Lee can provide what the ballclub is looking for. The Phillies lost for the sixth straight time in last night's 11-1 debacle to the Mets in the opener of this series. Vance Worley got the start and was roughed up for six runs and 10 hits in four innings.
"Usually he keeps us in the game and most of the time he gives us a chance to win. Tonight, they got on him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said about Worley. "They were hitting the ball and they were hitting the ball hard. He got hurt."
All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz provided the offense with a solo home run in the second inning, and that was all the Phillies could muster. The five-time defending division champions are now 12 games out of first place in the NL East and 10 games under .500 for the first time since July 22, 2002. The Phillies are also 0-6 since Chase Utley returned to the club. They're hoping Ryan Howard can provide a lift when he's finished with his rehab assignment in the minors.
It's been a different story for the Mets, as they have achieved more success than their division rivals. The Mets are just 3 1/2 games behind Washington for the top spot in the NL East and won for the fifth time in six tries with Tuesday's 10-run pounding of the Phillies.
David Wright continued his hot season with a three-run homer and four RBI, while Daniel Murphy was on base pretty much all night with a 4-for-5 performance and four runs batted in. Josh Thole added three hits and starting pitcher Jon Niese drove in two runs for New York, which finished with a lopsided 15-3 advantage in hits.
Wright has 10-plus homers in nine straight seasons, a franchise record. He is batting .351 on the season with 10 home runs and 54 RBI, and passed Howard Johnson for third place on the team's home run list. Niese worked eight strong innings and allowed three hits, including Ruiz's solo home run. Jon Rauch then closed the door in the ninth.
"What he has been doing is really going after hitters," Mets manager Terry Collins said about Niese. "He's stepped up and started showing guys what he can do."
The Mets opened a six-game homestand with a dominant performance and will also welcome the Chicago Cubs to town. Murphy, meanwhile, owns 14 RBI in his last six games.
Chris Young looks to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season when he takes the mound for the Mets today. Young, who missed most of last season with a right shoulder injury, is coming off Thursday's 3-2 win at Dodger Stadium. He held Los Angeles to a pair of runs in 6 1/3 innings to improve to 2-1 in five starts and lower his ERA to 3.30.
Young is 0-1 in two home starts and hasn't faced the Phillies yet this season. In seven career starts against them, he is 3-2 with a 3.35 earned run average.
The Phillies have lost seven of 10 matchups with New York this season, but won two of three at Citi Field from May 28-30.