PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies hovered at the precipice Monday night and left-hander Cliff Lee had just enough on his regular four days' rest to keep them alive in the World Series. The question now is how much does he have left?
By virtue of Lee's seven-plus innings of five-run, seven-hit ball, the Phils held on to win, 8-6, at Citizens Bank Park and now trail the best-of-seven series, 3-2. If they get through Game 6 behind Pedro Martinez on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, Lee may get the ball for an inning or more the next night in Game 7.
"I'll pitch whenever they want me to pitch," Lee said after the game. "That's about as clear as I can say it. I'm ready whenever. I don't really get that sore, so I'll be ready to pitch whenever they want me to. If it's going to help the team win, I'm in."
The Phils are trying to become the seventh team in World Series history and the first in 24 years to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win the World Series. For the next two games, it will be all hands on deck.
Cole Hamels, last year's all-world and this year's all-misfit, went in to talk to manager Charlie Manuel after the game to clear any misconception there might be about his availability to pitch again this season. Despite a 1-2 record, a 7.58 ERA this postseason and a poor start this past Saturday night, Hamels told Manuel he wants to start Game 7.
"Of course I want the ball in Game 7," Hamels said. "It's something you dream about as a kid. Even though I haven't had the results, I'm geared up to do it."
With Game 6 pending, Manuel wasn't ready to declare a starter for Game 7 and Hamels acknowledged that fact. The MVP of last year's Phillies World Series victory over the Rays in five games is on the bubble, although Manuel's choices beyond the left-hander are pretty narrow.
Five off the floor
The Phillies will try to become the sixth team in seven-game World Series history to come back from a 3-1 deficit. The first five:
That became pretty acute when Manuel sent Lee out to start the eighth inning Monday night already having labored through 103 tough pitches and the Phillies leading, 8-2. The six-run advantage wasn't enough for Manuel to forsake Lee at that point for his porous bullpen.
"It [the lead] would have to have been a little bit bigger," Manuel said.
The wear and tear of a game in which Lee was diametrically different than his dominant performance in Game 1 -- a 6-1 complete-game six-hitter at Yankee Stadium -- caught up with him.
The Yankees scored a run off Lee in the first inning on an Alex Rodriguez double, but for the next six innings he was nearly flawless, allowing no runs, two hits and only four baserunners even though he was consistently behind in the count.
In the eighth, Johnny Damon singled and Mark Teixeira sent Damon to third with a double. A-Rod doubled them both in. Lee was yanked having thrown 112 pitches before Robinson Cano knocked in another run with a sacrifice fly. Suddenly the score was 8-5 and it was obvious that the relentless Yankees weren't about to back down.
"I don't think my command was as good as it has been; it was a little off," said Lee, who walked three and whiffed three as opposed to no walks and 10 strikeouts in Game 1. "It was a game where I had to battle a little bit. Fortunately, we scored a lot of runs and that made things easier as far as that goes. Basically our backs were against the wall. It was a do-or-die situation. At least I went out there and gave the team a chance."
Lee has been the Phillies' ace this postseason at 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts, including 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the World Series. If the Phillies somehow complete a comeback, Lee will be right there with Chase Utley (a record-tying five homers in the Series) for MVP honors.
By opting not to start him on three days' rest in Game 4 on Sunday, Manuel pretty much iced the possibility of starting Lee in Game 7.
"What's that old saying: 'Spahn and Sain and pray for rain'?" said Manuel, referring to Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain of the old Braves. "We have an off-day [Tuesday]. Maybe it will rain the next day so I can use him on three days' rest like you guys [the media] have been talking about. The seventh game would be on his day to throw in the bullpen and I'll see where it goes from there. I'll talk to him and see how he feels."
Manuel talked to Lee before Game 4 and asked him if he had ever pitched on three days' rest. Lee said he hadn't. That coupled with the fact that Lee has already thrown 270 innings this year between stints with the Indians and Phillies and in the postseason convinced Manuel that it was wiser to hold Lee back. Now there is no holding anyone back.
A start in Game 7 seems out of the question, but it could come down to an inning or two.
"We don't know about that yet," Manuel said. "I'll talk to him and see if he can pitch at all or something."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.