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Knuckle Sandwich: Phils Keep Slim Playoff Hopes Alive, Beat Dickey and Mets 3-1

Cliff Lee has decided winning games is better than losing them.It wasn’t exactly a bludgeoning, but it was good enough.

The Phillies kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Monday night, beating Cy Young contender R.A. Dickey and the Mets 3-1 at Citi Field. And really, the Phillies have one man to thank for that.

Clifton Phifer Lee.

The Phils’ left-hander, who seemingly went about seven years before notching his first win this season, picked up his sixth victory of the year, scattering seven hits in eight innings of work, giving up just one earned run while striking out 10.

It was vintage Cliff Lee, who is in the midst of one of his totally awesome dominant stretches of pitching. In his last 49 2/3 innings, dating back to August 16th, Lee has an ERA of 1.63 with 54 strikeouts and only 4 walks.

THAT is a $125 million pitcher.

So, what’s changed?

“I feel like I’m the same guy going out there trying to do the same things,” Lee said after the game. “For whatever reason I didn’t get many breaks and things weren’t going my way. Lately, I’ve got more breaks. I’ve done a better job just keeping the ball in the ballpark. I gave up quite a bit of home runs early. Eliminating that has been a pretty big difference. Other than that it’s been the same.”

In his first 21 starts, Lee gave up 22 home runs, averaging more than a dinger per game. In his last six starts, he hasn’t allowed any.

Luck? Execution? It’s probably a little of both.

Offensively, Jimmy Rollins continued to swing a hot bat, and provide the Phillies with some much-needed power. Rollins hit his 21st home run of the year, far and away the leader on the team in that category.

Are we sure Jimmy wouldn’t like hitting in the cleanup spot?

Domonic Brown also had a big game, going 2-4 with a triple and a homer off Dickey, as the young right fielder is finally starting to display some of the power that everyone has said is there.

In his last 10 games, Brown has three home runs, two doubles and a triple while hitting .286/.418/.829 during that stretch.

A small sample size, but definitely trending in the right direction.

With the win, the Phillies kept their barely pulsating playoff hopes alive, moving to within 3.5 games of the idle St. Louis Cardinals. They’re still one game behind the Pirates (who won yesterday) and the Brewers (who were also off), and two games behind the Dodgers (who also had the night off).

Where It All Went Right

When Jimmy Rollins’ fifth inning “triple” was replayed by umpires and correctly ruled a home run. The ball appeared to glance off Scott Hairston Jr.’s glove and off the wall. But replays show the ball actually hit a wall behind the fence and bounced back into play. That gave the Phils a 2-0 lead and turned out to be the winning margin in the ballgame.

Most Attractive Play

Kevin Frandsen’s nice play on a short-hop scoop in the bottom of the first that helped keep the Mets off the board early. While it wasn’t a Brooks Robinson-esque-type-chance, it was still a tough play made even better by the fact he got a force out at second.

Hero

Cliff Lee, who also recorded his 1500th career strikeout in the second inning against Jason Bay. (As an aside, what in the heck has happened to Jason Bay? This guy was a former All-Star, who is now a back-up outfielder who barely plays anymore. Incredible, and sad.)

Villain

David Wright, because he won’t ever play for the Phillies. At least not until he’s, like, 36 and too old to do anything good anymore. That’s OK. I’m more comfortable hating him anyway.

Topics: Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies

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