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PHI@MIA: Lee strikes out five, three-hits Marlins

MIAMI -- It has been an interesting couple of weeks for the Phillies, and it could get more interesting if Chase Utley misses significant time because of a rib cage injury. In that case, they need somebody to pick up the offense.

Maybe Delmon Young can be the guy.

He homered for the second consecutive game in Wednesday night's 3-0 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park as Cliff Lee threw his first shutout since Sept. 5, 2011, and 12th of his career to improve to 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA.

The victory moved the Phillies within a game of .500 for the first time since April 15, when they were 6-7. The club had been winless in its last eight attempts to move within a game of .500 in the last month.

Philadelphia quietly has won seven of its last 10 games while Roy Halladay had right shoulder surgery, Carlos Ruiz and Mike Adams landed on the disabled list, Ryan Howard missed a couple of games because of a cortisone injection in his left knee and Utley injured himself Monday during batting practice.

"Our pitching has been good, like tonight," Young said. "Cliff only needed one run. When you're getting good pitching and you have a good bullpen, all you have to do is score a couple of runs. Our pitching has been holding us together. Things haven't gone the way we've wanted this year, but we're playing better.

"If the pitching wasn't there from the start, we could really have a bad record right now. When you have good pitching, you always have a chance to be in ballgames and it doesn't require a high-octane offense when you have good pitching."

But it certainly would ease the minds of pitchers like Lee, who allowed three hits, two walks and struck out five. Young crushed a solo home run to left-center field in the fourth on a 0-2 pitch from Marlins right-hander Kevin Slowey to hand the Phils a 1-0 lead. Young then threw out a runner at second base in the fifth and reached on a two-out infield single and scored from first on Domonic Brown's triple in the sixth.

"I'd prefer to get a clean hit so I wouldn't have to run so hard," Young said. "I'll take it. That takes a toll on the body to run sprints like that, you know?"

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Tuesday afternoon he thought Young was close to finding his timing at the plate.

Young thought he was close, too.

"I've been feeling better and putting good wood on the ball," Young said.

The club could use somebody to get on a roll offensively as it opens an intriguing three-game series Friday against the Nationals at Nationals Park. Every preseason prognosticator not only picked the Nationals to easily win the National League East, but dominate the NL on their way to a World Series championship. It was fait accompli. But the Nationals enter the series 24-23, just one game ahead of the inconsistent Phillies (23-24).

Phillies fans might not believe this, but the Nationals offense has been worse than Philadelphia's. The Phils entered Wednesday 12th in the league averaging 3.57 runs per game. The Nats ranked 13th, averaging 3.41 runs per game.

The first team to four runs in any those games almost seems assured a victory.

If Young continues to swing a hot bat, he could help the cause. He also crushed a ball to left-center field in the second, but it was caught on the warning track. Had that ball been hit at Citizens Bank Park, there is a chance it would have been a home run. If not a home run, it almost certainly would have been off the wall.

"I feel like I'm getting my timing, and that I'm recognizing pitches early," he said.

The Marlins had trouble from the jump with Lee, who worked out of a jam with the bases loaded and no outs in the second. He got a double play and strikeout to end the inning. He cruised from there.

"I feel like I got better as the game went on," Lee said. "The last three innings, I felt as good as I have in a long time. Hit the ball right where I wanted. The first six innings was kind of trying to mix speeds and locate somewhat, but I just felt more crisp after the sixth.

"Seems like we're playing good. We're playing well-rounded baseball."

Can they get back to .500 for the first time since April 14? They get their first shot Friday.

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