The bullpen and the lineup are major culprits of the Philadelphia Phillies' longest losing streak of the season.
They hope starting Cliff Lee means they won't have to rely much on either one.
Lee will try to help the Phillies end their skid in the finale of a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
Philadelphia (31-35) has seen its relievers post a 4.56 ERA, ranking ahead of only two of baseball's worst teams record-wise - the New York Mets (4.65) and Houston (4.86).
The Phillies' bullpen has been particularly poor during the current five-game losing streak, surrendering nine runs and 18 hits in 11 innings.
The offense hasn't provided much relief, either. Philadelphia is batting .218 with 13 runs during the slide, which has matched the team's worst of the year and would equal its longest from last season with a loss Thursday.
The lineup mustered only one extra-base hit Wednesday in a 4-3 loss at Minnesota (29-33). The relievers wasted a two-run, sixth-inning lead, with the decisive run coming on a wild pitch from Justin De Fratus.
Manager Charlie Manuel was asked if it's possible the Phillies aren't as good as they might look on paper.
"I would never say something like that. If we have the right attitude, play the game right and love to play, we can win more games than you'd ever think we could," Manuel said. "You can go a long way sometimes by just wanting to play, playing right. We got some 'want to.' We're just not consistent."
Lee (7-2, 2.55 ERA) certainly is, going 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA over his last seven starts. He's pitched at least seven innings in all of those games and leads the Phillies with 95 1-3.
However, he wasted a four-run lead in Friday's 5-4 loss at Milwaukee. The left-hander gave up four runs in seven innings and tied a season high with three walks.
Lee is facing the Twins for the first time since a loss while with Texas on Aug. 26, 2010. He's 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA over his last five visits to Minnesota, winning his most recent with Cleveland on June 3, 2009.
The Twins are trying to win five in a row at home for the first time since May 28-June 9, 2012. They're hitting .321 over the last four.
Clete Thomas and Oswaldo Arcia - both recalled from Triple-A Rochester this month - kept Minnesota rolling by combining for seven hits, four runs and two RBIs on Wednesday.
Kevin Correia (5-4, 4.11) will try to complete the first sweep by either team in the all-time series, but he hasn't defeated Philadelphia since he was a rookie with San Francisco on Aug. 10, 2003.
The right-hander has since gone 0-3 with a 10.89 ERA in 10 games - three starts - versus the Phillies but hasn't faced them since 2010.
Correia is 0-1 in his last two home starts while allowing eight runs and five homers in 13 2-3 innings, compared to 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his first four.
He gave up three runs with seven strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday's 4-3 win in 11 at Washington.
Ryan Howard is 3 for 11 with a homer versus Correia, but the slugging first baseman is batting .222 with no homers and five RBIs over the past 12 games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved