Lee struggles as Phillies fall to Brewers

BY foxsports • September 26, 2009

The Philadelphia Phillies couldn't take another step toward clinching the NL East on Friday night. And while the defending World Series champions are still in good shape to get back to the playoffs, they're certainly experiencing some angst along the way.

They aren't sure about their closer. Pedro Martinez won't make his scheduled start Saturday. And Cliff Lee once again was missing the dominant form he showed immediately after he was acquired in a trade, giving up a pair of three-run homers in an 8-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Lee (7-3) is struggling with his command.

"I'd say right now that's one of his big problems, yeah," Manuel said. "He made some mistakes here tonight, and they made him pay."

One of Lee's two big mistakes was a changeup down the middle to Prince Fielder, who hit his 43rd homer and drove in four runs to become the major league leader in RBIs.

Fielder hit a run-scoring single in the first and the three-run shot in the fifth to give him 136 RBIs - one more than the Phillies' Ryan Howard, who drove in three runs with two singles.

Even with no playoffs to play for, Fielder said he's more concerned about winning than edging Howard for the RBI title.

"I notice it, but I'm not trying to compete with him," Fielder said.

Mike Cameron also hit a three-run homer off Lee, who gave up nine hits in six innings.

After taking Thursday's series opener from the Brewers, the Phillies couldn't make another dent in their magic number of four for clinching the division. Second-place Atlanta won 4-1 at Washington.

And the Phillies have a few issues to sort out before they try to defend their world title.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before the game that the team would look at other options for closing games - although he said Brad Lidge, who has a major league-worst 11 blown saves, remains in the mix.

Lidge pitched the seventh against Milwaukee on Friday, giving up an RBI single to Casey McGehee. But he generally was happy with the outing, which allowed him to work on his fastball after throwing too many sliders lately.

"When you start falling into very obvious patterns, the hitters start getting more confidence that they know what's going to come," Lidge said.

Also, Martinez was scratched from Saturday's start because of lingering neck soreness. Right-hander Kyle Kendrick will step in against the Brewers, and it is not clear when Martinez will pitch again.

Then there's Lee, who was terrific in his first five outings after he was acquired from Cleveland in July. But Lee now has given up four runs or more in four of his last six starts, including three six-run outings.

"I've got to make better pitches than that and figure out a way to keep the ball in the ballpark," Lee said. "It was the difference in the game."

Lee has pitched 226 innings this season but said fatigue is not a factor.

"I feel good," Lee said. "I feel strong. Physically, I feel fine."

Manny Parra (11-10) made his first start for Milwaukee since leaving his Sept. 8 outing after one inning because of neck spasms, giving up four hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts.

"I feel it actually refreshed me, if anything," Parra said of the layoff. "I really didn't put too much pressure on myself."

After the Phillies put their first two runners on in the ninth, Trevor Hoffman came in and retired three straight for his 36th save.

NOTES: Amaro said LHP J.C. Romero and RHP Brett Myers could be ninth-inning options for the Phillies. The team hopes both will return from injuries next week. ... Howard's two-run single in the fourth originally was ruled an error by 1B Fielder, but the official scorer reversed the decision one inning later. "I thought it was an error," Fielder said.

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