ATLANTA - And on the third day, a voice boomed down from the heavens, saying, "Fear not, for I am with you!"

Actually, it wasn't really a voice. It was Cliff Lee, and for eight scoreless innings he reminded everybody in Philadelphia why the Phillies expect to be in the thick of the National League pennant chase. For 106 pitches, he was the most dominant player on the field, pounding the zone with a two-seamer that ran away from the Braves' righthanded power and, when coupled with his changeup, proved nearly unhittable. Atlanta did manage a couple of singles, but one was erased by a doubleplay and the other did not move past first.

"We've got hope," Charlie Manuel said after his team picked up its first win of the season, beating the Braves, 2-0, to improve to 1-2.

The manager was poking fun at the panic that has undoubtedly infected a portion of the fan base that will watch the Phillies open up their home schedule Friday at 4 p.m. against the Royals.

Granted, some uneasiness is justified this year, particularly with the continued struggles of Roy Halladay and a lineup missing catcher Carlos Ruiz. But for all of their faults, the Phillies do have something very few teams in the major leagues can boast. Cole Hamels might not have played his part in Monday's season-opening loss to the Braves, but most times through the rotation, the 1-2 punch provided by Hamels and Lee will be difficult to match. And as long as the Phillies can get them enough run support - something that was a problem for Lee last season and for Hamels the year before - the two lefties have the potential to dramatically ease the pressure on Halladay, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan.

Think about it this way:

Just 2 years ago, the Phillies went a combined 41-23 in games started by Hamels or Lee. Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals earned the second National League wild-card spot with 88 wins. If Lee and Hamels posted the same record this season, that would require the Phillies to go just 47-51 in the rest of their games to reach the threshold that last year would have qualified them for the postseason.

Of course, you need only look back to last season to see that even a pitcher the caliber of Lee cannot win a season on his own. In 2012, the lefty received an average of just 3.53 runs of offensive support per 27 outs that he was on the mound, one of the lowest figures in baseball. The Phillies lost 10 games in which he held an opponent to three or runs or fewer, seven in which he held an opponent to two runs or fewer, one in which he pitched 10 scoreless innings. That explains both the 12-18 record the Phillies posted in his starts and the fact that his first credited victory did not come until July.

Things started differently in 2013, thanks to a couple of early runs the offense pushed home in the second inning (Lee contributed a walk in the frame, while Ben Revere and Chase Utley drove in the runs).

"Obviously, you'd rather pitch with a lead than not," said Lee, who struck out eight and did not walk a batter in his eight innings of work. "It makes it easier to attack the zone. Especially with a two-run lead you are not as worried about a solo home run. You have to make them swing their way on base, try not to walk anyone, and be aggressive. Throw fastballs over the plate and let the defense make plays."

The Phillies did not exactly give the fans at Turner Field whiplash, but they hit some balls hard, worked some counts, and put some runners on base. The glaring statistic from the series is that they left 26 runners on base over the course of the three games. On the three occasions that a runner reached base Thursday night - in addition to the two hits, Utley was charged with a fielding error - the Braves were suddenly one swing away from tying the game. And as the Phillies saw in the first two games of the series, when the Braves hit six home runs, one swing is all they often need.

Thursday night, though, the Phillies had one Lee. And that's a formula they feel pretty good about.

On Twitter: @HighCheese