The Washington Nationals are scuffling at the plate and on the brink of their longest slide in over two months.
Cliff Lee hasn't won since baffling the NL East leaders a month ago.
The Nationals may be hoping for the return of a pair of productive bats Sunday when they try to avoid a sweep in this three-game set by solving Lee and the surging Philadelphia Phillies .
Washington (77-49) owns the best record in baseball, but is hitting .224 with one homer and five runs during a three-game slide. That anemic stretch continued Saturday, when the Nationals were held to seven singles and struck out 11 times in a 4-2 loss at Philadelphia (60-67).
They last dropped four in a row from June 15-19.
"Our offense is struggling a little with (injured players) out, but you've got to give credit to their pitching," said manager Davey Johnson, whose club played without Ian Desmond (hamstring) and Michael Morse (hand).
It's unclear if Desmond and Morse will be back for the series finale, and Washington could use them.
Desmond, who has missed two games, is 5 for 12 with two homers and three RBIs in his last three games. Three of his seven hits against the Phillies this season have been homers.
Morse was hit by a pitch from Kyle Kendrick in Friday's 4-2 loss, and he's hitting .324 with eight homers and 26 RBIs on the road this season. He's also 13 for 27 with nine RBIs in his last 10 games at Citizens Bank Park, and 7 for 20 versus Lee.
Lee (2-7, 3.78 ERA) hasn't won since holding the Nationals to five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of an 8-0 road win July 31. The left-hander has won four of six meetings with the division rival, compiling a 2.44 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 44 1-3 innings.
Lee, though, is 0-1 with a 3.99 ERA in four games since his victory last month.
The three-time All-Star could have used some help from his teammates in Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Cincinnati. He allowed three runs - two earned - with nine strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings, while being backed by one run with the defense making two errors.
Philadelphia, though, is going for its first four-game winning streak since July 22-25.
"We've got a little step in our get-a-long," manager Charlie Manuel said.
John Mayberry is hitting .367 with three homers and nine RBIs in eight games. He's collected three hits in this series and had a solo homer while driving in three runs Saturday.
Mayberry is 10 for 27 in his past nine home meetings with Washington.
Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 2.54) is scheduled to start opposite Lee, and he's 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA over his last two outings after going 6-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his previous nine.
The right-hander struggled again Monday, allowing four runs and eight hits while throwing 102 pitches in five innings of a 5-4 win in 13 over Atlanta.
Zimmermann was impressive in his most recent meeting with the Phillies on May 22, battling through 107 pitches in six innings while giving up one run and seven hits in a 5-2 win at Philadelphia. He had been 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA over his last four starts against the division rival.
|August 24, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hand contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore right ankle|
|August 05, 2012||Mark DeRosa||15-Day DL||Left abdominal strain|
|August 01, 2012||Henry Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|July 29, 2012||Adam LaRoche||Day-to-Day||Left game - Back tightness|
|August 24, 2012||Brian Schneider||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|August 13, 2012||Nate Schierholtz||15-Day DL||Fractured right big toe|
|August 03, 2012||Carlos Ruiz||15-Day DL||Plantar fasciitis, left foot|
|July 23, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|July 23, 2012||Placido Polanco||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|July 09, 2012||Raul Valdes||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals aren't acting like teams that have traded places.
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 5 1/2-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.
NOTES: 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.