PHILADELPHIA -- As each start passes, it gets harder to believe. Cliff Lee, the former Cy Young Award winner who is considered one of the best in baseball, is still winless in 2012.
In his 12th start of the year on Sunday night, Lee allowed five runs over seven innings in a 7-3 loss, as the Rays completed the sweep of Sunday's doubleheader and a series win at Citizens Bank Park.
The five-time defending champions are back in last place in the National League East, a day after jumping to fourth place with a dramatic win.
Lee (0-4, 3.72) is the second Cy Young Award winner in Major League history to be winless through 12 starts in any subsequent season. The other was Vida Blue, who was 0-5 in 19 appearances (14 starts) for the Royals in 1983. The longest Lee went before his first win in any prior season was a mere three starts.
A nine-strikeout performance was overshadowed by two bad innings for Lee -- the second and the sixth. The Phillies offense didn't offer a whole lot either, as they managed just four hits, including two RBI doubles from Placido Polanco.
Issuing leadoff walks almost always seems to lead to trouble, and that's exactly what happened to Lee in the second. Lee walked Jeff Keppinger on five pitches and Ben Zobrist singled to put runners on first and second. Sean Rodriguez then hit an RBI double to center field and Brooks Conrad followed with a double of his own that scored two runs to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.
"I let things get out of hand there," Lee said. "I walked the first guy of that inning and that was a bad inning. A few crucial walks throughout the game ended up costing me. I felt like I threw a couple of good pitches on a few of those walks, but that is something I can't control.
"I do have to do a better job of being ahead in the count. With two outs, I can't be walking people and letting a big inning happen with two outs and nobody on, obviously. I feel like I'm better than that."
Lee settled down after the second inning, retiring 11 straight batters. But with two outs in the sixth, the left-hander allowed a single to Zobrist, walked Rodriguez and surrendered another two-run double to Conrad.
On the play, Rodriguez collided with Phillies catcher Brian Schneider, who exited the game with a right ankle sprain. X-Rays were negative, but Manuel said it looks like Schneider will "be out a few days."
"Real sore," said Schneider, who was limping after the game. "Just going to wait till tomorrow and see how it is when I wake up. Haven't seen the replay or anything. Just going for the ball. Obviously there was a collision. I don't know how my ankle bent back, what exactly happened."
The Rays (40-32) used a committee of four relievers to stifle the Phillies on Sunday night. Cesar Ramos, Wade Davis and Brandon Gomes each pitched 2 2/3 innings and J.P. Howell pitched the ninth. Davis was the only Tampa Bay hurler the Phillies had any type of success against, tagging him with all three earned runs on three hits.
It wasn't enough.
"Once they got the lead, 3-0, it seemed like we couldn't get nothing going, we couldn't catch up," Manuel said.
B.J. Rosenberg, who was called up Sunday morning to be the Phillies' 26th man for the doubleheader and optioned back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after the game, issued four walks in the eighth inning as the Rays took a 6-3 lead. Jake Diekman entered to try to close out the inning but walked in another run to give the Rays a 7-3 lead.
But it is Lee's name who will show up in the loss column, as he allowed five runs for the second consecutive start.
The Phillies entered Sunday's doubleheader winners of three of their last four and hoping to get a streak going. They had their two most established pitchers -- that aren't on the disabled list -- in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. But they couldn't get it done in either game, despite a great start from Hamels in the opener.
Asked if it has been tough for the Phillies to get any kind of momentum going this season, Lee said, "I would say that's fairly accurate. It seems like it."
"We have trouble and there's no getting away from it," Manuel said. "There are three phases of the game. There's pitching, defense and hitting. We're dysfunctional at nights in two of those phases. And all of a sudden we can't put together what you call good games."
The Phillies could be getting a key piece back this coming week. Chase Utley, who has not played this season with chondromalacia in his left knee, is back in town from Clearwater, Fla., and will play another rehab game at Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. The exact day he will rejoin the club is unclear, but the countdown appears to be nearing its end.
"I think that Chase is close," Manuel said. "Hopefully some time his week or something we'll have some good news."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.