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PHI@ATL: Lee strikes out eight over eight scoreless

In the Phillies' first turn through their starting rotation this season, Cliff Lee acted as the stopper following shaky performances from Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay.

He'll try to do the same on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies will take on the Mets in the second of a three-game series. New York roughed up Halladay for seven runs in taking Monday's opener, a day after Hamels surrendered eight runs in a loss to the Royals.

"I think it's early, but I'm concerned about our pitching," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, whose staff has a 7.08 ERA thus far. "I still think we're going to score some runs. When we get Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young in the lineup, we're definitely going to score some runs. Right now, we've got to work through the problem we're having with our pitching.

"Our starting pitching definitely has to get better for us to win some games."

Coming off a frustrating season in which he won only six games despite posting a 3.16 ERA and leading the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio, Lee shut out the Braves over eight innings last Thursday in Atlanta. He gave up two hits and no walks while striking out eight.

"Last year, I got the first win on the Fourth of July," Lee said. "It's nice to get it out of the way on the first one, no doubt."

While the Phillies are off a 2-5 start, the Mets have won three straight to go 5-2. They have won eight of 10 at Citizens Bank Park going back to last season.

But New York's starter on Tuesday, Dillon Gee, has not fared well in Philadelphia, where he sports a 9.00 ERA in 18 career innings. That's his highest at any ballpark.

On Thursday, Gee made his first start since last July, when he underwent emergency surgery to repair a blood clot in his shoulder. The right-hander held the Padres to one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings but took the hard-luck loss.

Mets: Flexing their muscles
• When catcher John Buck took Halladay deep in the second inning, it gave the Mets at least one home run in seven straight games to begin their season. That's their longest streak since 1987, when they started the year by homering in a franchise-record eight straight.

Buck has been one of the club's primary power sources, with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Last season with the Marlins, it took him 33 games to compile 12 RBIs.

• Despite the Mets' early success, they still haven't found themselves in a save situation. That's left little work for closer Bobby Parnell, who has thrown 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two appearances.

"I'm definitely ready for a save opportunity, but it's not a big deal as long as we're winning," Parnell said. "We're winning. I'm pitching. Opportunities are going to come."

Phillies: Struggles continuing for Howard
• First baseman Ryan Howard went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a sacrifice fly on Monday and is now 4-for-27 (.148) with no extra-base hits and 10 strikeouts this season. He had batted .322 with seven home runs in Grapefruit League play after a ruptured Achilles tendon limited him to 71 games in 2012.

"He can definitely be a little more patient at the plate," Manuel said. "I think Ryan thinks that when he's at bat with somebody in scoring position that he has to knock them in. The only thing he has to do is be relaxed and get good balls to hit. When he swings at strikes, he becomes a much better hitter."

• With Ben Revere's stolen base on Monday, the Phillies passed the Mets for the National League lead with eight. Neither team has been caught.

The Phillies have led the Majors in stolen base success rate in six straight seasons. Last year, they went 116-for-139 (83.5 percent).

Worth noting
• The Mets have scored at least seven runs four times this season. In 2012, it took them until May 9 to do so.

• Buck's 54 plate appearances against Lee are more than any other active player and second all time behind Magglio Ordonez. The two started their careers facing off in the American League Central, Buck with the Royals and Lee with the Indians. Buck has taken advantage of all of those chances, hitting .292 with three homers and eight RBIs.

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