Lee wins at home as Phillies sweep Nationals

Cliff Lee led the Phillies against the Nationals to end their three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. (H. Rumph Jr./Associated Press)
Cliff Lee led the Phillies against the Nationals to end their three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. (H. Rumph Jr./Associated Press)
Posted: August 27, 2012

WHEN ADAM LaRoche uncoiled his bat and the ball sailed toward the rightfield seats in the seventh inning, Cliff Lee was sure it was gone. He was ready to motion to plate umpire Lance Barksdale that he'd need another ball.

But then the ball that wasn't a home run was suddenly back in the infield. And instead of going out, it became an out, when Jayson Werth was stuck at third base and LaRoche was caught in a rundown between second and third.

"I really didn't know what was going on," Lee said.

Lee simply couldn't remember what good fortune felt like.

A ball that could have been a two-run shot to cut the Phillies' lead in half was instead a double off the top rail of the rightfield fence. Even after an official review, it remained a double.

Unlike most of his first 22 starts this season, Lee's start on Sunday wasn't ruined by one bad inning or a lack of offense or a bullpen gone bust. Instead, Lee pitched seven sharp innings and had an RBI double, Jimmy Rollins and Laynce Nix homered and Josh Lindblom pitched a five-out save as the Phillies rolled to a 4-1 win over Washington.

"It was definitely a break that went my way," Lee said of the fateful bounce off the railing that caromed back onto the field. "I felt good about that."

The victory was the Phillies' fourth straight and it completed a three-game sweep over the Nationals, who had entered the weekend with the best record in baseball. The Phillies (61-67) are within six games of the .500 mark for the first time in 2 months, when they were 36-42 on June 28.

Lee was winless after the first 3 months of the season back then. On Sunday, he walked to the mound winless at Citizens Bank Park since Sept. 5, 2011.

For the first time in 356 days, Lee collected a win at home on Sunday, holding the Nats to one run on seven hits in seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks.

"It feels like it has been a while," Lee said of being winless in 13 straight home starts. "I didn't know this was my first win at home this year. I don't pay attention or keep up with that kind of stuff, to be honest with you. Hopefully I can win a couple more before it's over."

In his last start at home before Sunday, Lee pitched six shutout innings before coming unglued in the seventh, and then the bullpen came unglued after he exited. In the home start before that, he pitched five shutout innings before giving up a three-run homer to Matt Holliday.

But in each of those games, the Phillies had scored a grand total of two runs when Lee was on the mound, giving him little margin for error. Lee was faced with a similar task Sunday, when Jordan Zimmermann matched him zero for zero over the first four innings.

After Kevin Frandsen led off with a single in the fifth, Lee took matters into his own hands. He launched a double over the head of centerfielder Bryce Harper to bring home Frandsen with the game's first run.

"He kind of made his own energy, didn't he?" manager Charlie Manuel said.

"[Zimmermann] gave me a fastball over the plate and I put a good swing on it," Lee said of his second extra-base hit of the season. "I don't know what he was thinking. I was just trying to square the ball up and get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it."

Five pitches later, Rollins eyed up a 94 mph fastball and launched it into the rightfield seats to make it 3-0 Phils. One inning later, Nix led off by ripping his first home run in close to 4 months, and his first off a lefthander in 8 years, to give Lee some insurance.

Jeremy Horst took over for Lee in the eighth and retired one of the two batters he faced before handing the baton to Josh Lindblom. With Jonathan Papelbon having pitched in three straight games, Lindblom stayed for the ninth, too, and retired all five batters he faced in his 1 2/3 innings of work.

The end result was the Phillies' seventh win in their last nine games.

After going into the All-Star break with 50 losses in 87 games, the Phils are 24-17 since. They have gone 16-10 since July 31, when they had a mini-fire sale in trading All-Star outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino.

"I know we've had a horrible first half and have carried that into the second half for a little while," Lee said. "All we can do is control what we can control and try to win one day at a time and just kind of see where that takes us."


Contact Ryan Lawrence at rlawrence@phillynews.com.

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