Cliff Lee tossed seven sharp innings for his first home win in nearly a year while Washington wrecked itself with a big mistake on the bases, helping the Phillies to a 4-1 victory Sunday and a three-game sweep of the team with the best record in the majors.
The loss left the Nationals in a testy mood. Manager Davey Johnson was heard screaming at someone in the clubhouse, sarcastically suggesting that person "come down here" and run the team. General manager Mike Rizzo was seen entering the clubhouse after the game, and presumably engaged in the heated conversation with Johnson.
"I had a discussion with my boss and I apologize to you guys," Johnson said, explaining why reporters had to wait nearly 25 minutes before entering his office.
Johnson didn't say more about the confrontation, and Rizzo wasn't immediately available to comment.
The Nationals have lost four straight for the first time since June 15-19. They entered with a 5½-game lead over Atlanta.
The third-place Phillies aren't going to win their sixth straight NL East title, but they were determined to make a statement against the Nationals. They may have done more than that, stirring up some tension on the Nationals' side.
"We expect to win every time we take the field," Lee said. "Hopefully we can carry this over the rest of the season."
The Nationals touched Lee in the seventh, but ran themselves out of a bigger inning.
Jayson Werth led off with an infield single and advanced to second on Lee's throwing error. Adam LaRoche followed with a towering shot to right that bounced off the top of the railing and back in play. Werth and LaRoche thought the ball went out and started jogging. LaRoche was tagged out between second and third while Werth stayed at third on the double. A video replay upheld the call.
Tyler Moore then lined an RBI double to left to cut it to 4-1.
"I screwed up," LaRoche said. "I should've stopped at second."
Jimmy Rollins hit a two-run homer and Laynce Nix had a solo shot to back Lee (3-7). The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner hadn't won at Citizens Bank Park since Sept. 5, going 0-6 in his previous 12 starts.
Lee outpitched Jordan Zimmermann (9-8) by allowing one run and seven hits, striking out five. Jeremy Horst got an out in the eighth and Josh Lindblom got the last five outs for his first career save. Jonathan Papelbon had the day off after closing three straight games.
Zimmermann gave up three runs and five hits in five innings. His ERA went up to 2.63, third-best in the NL.
"The first four innings were a breeze and then I hit a wall and made a couple bad pitches," Zimmermann said.
It was just the second three-game sweep of the season for Philadelphia, which closed within six games of .500 for the first time since losing to Pittsburgh on June 28.
"They have a real good ballclub and Lee pitched a heck of a game," Johnson said. "He was a complete pitcher."
Hurt by poor run support often this year, Lee got the offense going with an RBI double in the fifth. Kevin Frandsen singled to start the inning and advanced to second on a passed ball by Jesus Flores. Erik Kratz followed with a looper to center, but Bryce Harper made a sliding catch.
Lee, who hits well for a pitcher, then lined one to deep center over Harper's head, scoring Frandsen for a 1-0 lead.
Rollins followed with a drive to the seats in right. The leadoff hitter has 15 homers, just three shy from taking the team lead away from the since-traded Hunter Pence.
Nix connected on an 0-2 pitch off Tom Gorzelanny in the sixth.
Phillies LF Juan Pierre stole his 586th base in the fifth, tying Maury Wills for 19th on the career list. ... The Phillies are 8-15 in Lee's 23 starts. They were 22-10 when he started last season. ... OF Domonic Brown wasn't in Philadelphia's starting lineup for the second straight game because of a sore left knee. ... Werth battled the sun on Chase Utley's shallow fly to right in the fourth and ended up catching the ball barehanded after it glanced off his glove. ... The Nationals were swept in a three-game set for the fourth time. ... Stephen Strasburg (15-5, 2.85 ERA) starts for the Nationals on Tuesday night at Miami. ... Vance Worley (6-9, 4.06 ERA) pitches Tuesday night for the Phillies vs. the Mets.