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PHI@NYM: Lee fans 10 in eight frames of one-run ball

After the surging Phillies took a step backward in their late push for a postseason berth Saturday, they'll turn to their hottest pitcher, Cliff Lee, to get them back on track against the National League Wild Card-leading Braves.

Despite Saturday's loss, the Phillies have the second-best record (20-8) in the Majors since Aug. 23, and they find themselves in the playoff race after an underwhelming first half. They enter Sunday's rubber match at Citizens Bank Park four games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot, though the Dodgers and Brewers are still ahead of them in the standings.

"We've got three or four teams ahead of us that we've got to catch and pass," Lee said recently. "It's definitely not where we want to be, but we've still got a chance. Considering how we played the first half, we're pretty lucky to be where we are right now to be honest with you."

After an eight-inning, one-run effort his last time out, Lee is 4-0 with a 1.63 ERA in his last seven starts, improving his season ERA to 3.27. In his last 49 2/3 innings, he has struck out 54, walked four and allowed just nine earned runs -- a hot stretch he hopes to keep alive against Atlanta.

While the Phillies are fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt, the Braves are looking to take one step closer to clinching a playoff berth that could come as soon as Monday, with their magic number at three. Before they can do that, though, they'll rely on veteran Tim Hudson to clinch the series against Philadelphia.

Hudson ensured a third straight season of at least 15 wins during his last start, when he tossed five innings against the Marlins. The veteran righty didn't have his best stuff, scattering a season-high 10 hits and falling victim to a big four-run inning. However, he didn't issue a walk and was backed by some early offense.

"I thought Huddy made some good pitches," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after that game. "I thought there were some good pitches that maybe just caught a little bit too much of the plate on some."

Braves: Rotation realigned for Wild Card game
• Gonzalez tweaked the Braves' rotation Saturday in order to set up Kris Medlen to start the one-game playoff Atlanta will play if it clinches one of the two National League Wild Card spots.

To put Medlen in line to start the potential one-game playoff, which takes place Oct. 5, Gonzalez simply swapped Medlen with Paul Maholm in the rotation. That means Medlen, who has a 0.76 ERA in 10 starts this year, will pitch Tuesday against Miami and then make his regular-season finale on Sept. 30. If all works out as planned, Hudson would start Game 1 of the Division Series and Medlen would be set to go for Game 3.

"It's no secret. Medlen has been our best pitcher for the better part of a month or two now," Hudson said. "He definitely has to pitch important games for us, whether it be the first one or the second one. He's the guy we've got to lean on. We've been leaning on him for a while now."

Phillies: Howard belts No. 300
• Ryan Howard's solo homer in the fourth inning of Saturday's 8-2 loss to the Braves was the 300th of his career, making him just the second Phillies player all-time to reach that mark. The home run was also Howard's fourth in as many games.

While Howard reached his milestone Saturday, Chase Utley is on the precipice of his own landmark. Utley is one home run shy of the 200th of his career, which would make him the first Phillies second baseman to hit 200 homers.

Worth noting
• New Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday afternoon's series finale.

• Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is not expected to start Sunday, in what will likely be his last game in Philadelphia.

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