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PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Cliff Lee has lost his October touch.
Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead single in the seventh inning after Lee blew a four-run lead, and the St. Louis Cardinals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 5-4 Sunday night to even their NL playoff matchup at one game each.
The best-of-five series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 on Tuesday. Cole Hamels will be the third straight All-Star pitcher to face the Cardinals, who’ll send Jaime Garcia to the mound.
The wild-card Cardinals, who got into the postseason only after the Phillies beat Atlanta in Game 162, got the split they were looking for on the road against the team that had the best record in the majors.
Lee hardly looked like the guy who used to be so dominant in the postseason. He gave up five runs and 12 hits, striking out nine in six-plus innings, to lose his third straight playoff start.
“I wasn’t able to make my pitches, so I take full responsibility,” Lee said.
The most sought-after free agent last winter, Lee stunned the baseball world when he spurned the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies, who traded him away after he helped them win the 2009 NL pennant.
Lee’s arrival raised Philadelphia’s expectations to all-or-nothing proportions. Anything less than a World Series title won’t be considered a success by fans, players and management.
For a while, it seemed the Phillies had this one under control as they took a 4-0 edge.
After all, Lee is one of the best postseason pitchers in history, and he was 17-9 with a 2.40 ERA and a major league-best six shutouts this season.
Lee was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his first eight playoff starts— 4-0 with the Phillies in 2009 — before losing Games 1 and 5 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants as a member of the Texas Rangers last year.
He’s 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA in the last three outings.
“Anytime I got a 4-0 lead in the first or second, I feel I have the game well in hand,” Lee said.
Now the Phillies head to St. Louis with no guarantees of any more home games. If they lose two at Busch Stadium, their season is over.
“Nobody is going to hand us anything. We have to earn it,” Lee said.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, Chris Carpenter struggled for the Cardinals.
But one reliever after another did the job for manager Tony La Russa.
Six Cardinals relievers combined to toss six shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Jason Motte finished for a four-out save.
After chipping away for a few innings, the Cardinals took the lead in the seventh. Allen Craig led off with a triple off center fielder Shane Victorino’s glove. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Victorino misplayed the ball. He had to go a long way to make the catch, but overran it and the ball bounced off his glove.
Pujols, who struck out in his previous two at-bats, lined a single over drawn-in shortstop Jimmy Rollins to give St. Louis a 5-4 lead.
Cardinals players jumped up and cheered wildly in the dugout, while Phillies fans sat silently in disbelief. The red-clad faithful had their hearts broken already once Sunday.
Just a few hours earlier, the Eagles blew a 20-point lead and lost 24-23 to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL game across the street.
Many fans walked over to watch the two-sport doubleheader, and the crowd of 46,575 was the largest in the eight-year history of Citizens Bank Park.
On a chilly night when the gametime temperature was 50 degrees, Lee was the only starter in short sleeves.
Maybe he got cold.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead, Lee got the first two outs in the sixth.
Then Ryan Theriot lined a two-out double to left and Jon Jay followed with an opposite-field single to left. Theriot slid home safely ahead of Raul Ibanez’s high throw to tie it at 4.
Down 4-0, the Cardinals started their rally in the fourth. Lance Berkman walked and Yadier Molina hit a one-out infield single. Theriot sliced an RBI double down the right-field line and Jay followed with an RBI single to get St. Louis within 4-2.
Jay advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and Carpenter was pulled for pinch-hitter Nick Punto. Lee fired a 92 mph fastball by Punto for the second out.
But Rafael Furcal followed with a line-drive single to left.
Theriot scored and Jay came rumbling around the bases. Ibanez made a perfect one-hop throw and the ball arrived along with Jay. He slammed into catcher Carlos Ruiz, his left forearm knocking the stocky catcher backward. But Ruiz held to temporarily prevent the tying run from scoring. Lee, backing up the plate, pumped his fist while Ruiz calmly picked up his mask and jogged to the dugout.
Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, allowed four runs and five hits in three innings. It was the shortest outing of the season for Carpenter, who led the NL with 237 1-3 innings pitched this year.
The bullpen bailed him out.
“We felt real good about ourselves,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We got Carpenter out of the game early, and we were trying to get into their bullpen. The big problem was that their bullpen held us.”
Fernando Salas retired all six batters he faced, and Octavio Dotel set down five in a row to earn the win. Marc Rzepczynski gave up a two-out single to Rollins in the seventh, ending a streak of 15 straight batters retired. Rzepczynski left after hitting Chase Utley to start Philadelphia’s eighth.
Mitchell Boggs came in and got Hunter Pence to ground into a forceout. Arthur Rhodes replaced him and struck out Ryan Howard. Then it was Motte’s turn.
The Phillies, who overcame a 3-0 first-inning deficit in Game 1, took a 3-0 lead in the first in this one.
Rollins lined a double off the right-field fence and Utley and Pence walked to load the bases.
Howard, who hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning Saturday, then hit a sharp single up the middle to score two runs. His grounder appeared to hit the rubber and took an odd bounce on its way to center field.
Carpenter retired Victorino on a shallow fly, but Ibanez hit an RBI single to left to make it 3-0.
Rollins got things started again in the second with a two-out double off the top of the right-field fence. After Utley walked, Pence lined an RBI single to right for a 4-0 lead.
NOTES: Garcia is 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA in six games, four starts, vs. the Phillies. The lefty has held Philadelphia to a .178 batting average. …. Hamels is 2-3 with a 3.27 ERA in nine career starts vs. St. Louis. … Miss America Teresa Scanlan sang the national anthem. … This was the 219th straight sellout in Philadelphia, including postseason play.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)