Cliff Lee sat in the clubhouse at Coors Field with Kyle Kendrick and Jonathan Papelbon, the three pitchers playing a pre-game contest of Connect Four. Lee won every game he played before retiring.

“Nobody in this clubhouse is going to beat me at this game,” Lee said jovially.

It’s been hard to beat Lee on the field this year, too. His team? Not so much.

Lee let his frustrations loose Thursday night in Minneapolis, having nearly lost a game in which he pitched a gem. Seven innings, three hits, two runs, but a blown call almost resulted in a loss for the 8-2 Lee, who has been ridiculously good in the last month.

After the game, Lee not-so-subtly hinted he’d be quite open to a trade.

“I know that I want to win and I’ll voice that to whoever,” Lee said. “And that’s that.”

The comments were jolting. This entire season, the Phillies have promised a turnaround. They’ll get better, Charlie Manuel has said. Delmon Young will hit, he’s said. Ryan Howard’s bat will pick up.

None of it has happened, and the Phillies are still under .500 68 games into 2013. Understandably, Lee is not happy. His comments put into perspective just how crucial this next month will be for the pitcher and the team.