If there was ever a game that could sum up the 2012 Phillies Experience in a three-hour package, it aired on Sunday afternoon in South Philly.
Cliff Lee took the mound and pitched brilliantly, but nothing else went right as the Phils dropped a 2-1 defeat to the Atlanta Braves. After sweeping the Mets at Citi Field, the Phils dropped two of three games to Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park and are five games back of the National League's second wild card with just nine games remaining.
In all likelihood, the Phils' current major-league-best run of appearing in five straight postseasons will come to an end next month. Other than the injuries to core players -- including Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz -- perhaps there's no better explanation for the end of the Phils' run than the perplexing season that Lee is finishing up.
Lee held the Braves to two runs (one earned) in eight innings. He struck out 11 and didn't walk a batter. But the Phillies managed just two hits off Tim Hudson and the Braves' bullpen, making Lee a hard-luck loser.
It's a position Lee has become familiar with this season: Despite sporting a 3.18 ERA, 11th best in the NL, Lee is 6-8.
"Cliff's definitely had an unordinary season," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's had a tough one."
Lee has held the opposition to two runs or less in 16 of his 28 starts. The Phillies, however, are 8-8 in those games.
The Phils began the season by losing 10 of Lee's first 13 starts. They probably would be prepping for their sixth straight playoff appearance if they had taken advantage of Lee's All-Star-caliber performance.
"You can go back and 'what if' this and 'what if' that with a lot of things," Lee said. "Obviously with the way my season has gone individually you can do that, and there are a lot of strange things that have happened, but it kind of is what it is.
"Like I've said a million times, all I can control is what I can control, and give the team a chance to win every time. For the most part it felt like I did that today. We just weren't able to get it done."