Charlie Manuel trotted to the mound in the seventh inning, his starting pitcher looking a mess a few minutes after looking near invincible through six frames.

Manuel and the entire infield huddled around Cliff Lee, who had just allowed a double to Brian McCann. Dan Uggla had belted a monster three-run home run two batters earlier, slimming the Phillies’ lead to two runs.

Lee, sweating profusely and clearly fatigued, protested being taken out. Manuel obliged.

Lee only threw two more pitches as Reed Johnson roped a hard-hit single to left field in the at-bat after the first meeting. Manuel mounted the stairs again and Lee was done.

The Phillies (42-45) nearly melted as quickly as Lee did Friday night, holding on for a shaky 5-4 win against Atlanta. It was a long way from the first time these two teams met.

Then, 92 days earlier, it was cold and rainy. The two teams faced off in the opening series of the season. The Braves (49-37) battered Phillies pitching for two games of the series, and the Phils’ season got off to a rough start by losing two of three.

Since, the Braves have fallen toward .500. After their 12-1 start, they are 37-35. The Phillies are 35-37 in that span.

Friday’s win is a big one. It narrows the gap somewhat against the Braves in the NL East division race. With the win, the Phillies are still 7½ games out of the division lead.

The Phillies and Braves will play 15 more games this season.

“The only way to definitely gain ground on the team ahead of you is to beat them,” Lee said. “We’re going to have plenty of opportunities to do that. Tonight was the first time and we got that one.”

Friday, the performance turned nearly as ugly for the Phillies. On paper, it will look like a strong victory against the division-leading Braves. In reality, it was nearly a nightmare scenario.

Everything was great for six innings. Lee (10-2) cruised through Braves batters with ease, striking out four hitters.

And the Phillies had abused Atlanta starter Paul Maholm. They got an unlikely three RBIs from backup catcher Humberto Quintero, whose two-run home run in the second gave the Phils an early three-run lead.