PHILADELPHIA -- His teammates struggling to provide run support through the game's first four innings, Cliff Lee kick-started the Phillies' offense with a big hit of his own.
Lee hit a go-ahead RBI double, threw seven innings of one-run ball and earned his first home win of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Nationals on Sunday, completing the three-game sweep of baseball's best team.
"He kind of made his own energy, didn't he?" manager Charlie Manuel said of Lee, who improved to 3-7 on the year.
With closer Jonathan Papelbon unavailable after pitching three straight days, Josh Lindblom used a mere 13 pitches to get the final five outs and earn his first career save.
Winners of seven of nine, and six games under .500 for the first time since June 28, Philadelphia (61-67) improved to 7-5 -- including wins in six of the last seven -- against Washington (77-50) this season. The win marked just the club's second three-game sweep of the year and assured a winning month for only the second time in 2012.
"I think for the most part, we underperformed the majority of the first half," Lee said. "I think recently we're just starting to play the way that we should, and the way that we expect to play. For us, it's not as much of a surprise to win and play the way we have. It's more of a surprise as bad as we played early. We always expect to win."
The fifth inning proved to be key on Sunday. Not only did the Phillies score the game's first three runs, but they also chased Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann from the game. Zimmermann (9-8), who entered with a 2.54 ERA, second best in the National League, allowed three runs on five hits over five innings.
Working with a 1-1 count in the fifth, Lee smacked a 93-mph fastball from Zimmermann over the head of Nationals rookie center fielder Bryce Harper. Five pitches later, Jimmy Rollins took Zimmermann deep on a heater to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead.
Rollins has been swinging the bat well recently. The Phillies' shortstop, who leads current Phillies with 15 home runs this season, has six hits in his last 12 at-bats, including five RBIs.
Entering the game, Lee's 3.32 run-support average was third lowest in the Major Leagues behind Miami's Josh Johnson and San Diego's Edinson Volquez. In 14 of Lee's 22 prior starts, the Phillies scored three runs or fewer. They appeared on their way to another poor offensive game before Lee's big hit sparked the three-run frame.
"I think things happen to him; he's had a different kind of a season," Manuel said of Lee's hard-luck season. "It's really hard to analyze it. ... He's had one of those years."
"It feels like it has been a while," Lee said of his first win at Citizens Bank Park since Sept. 5 2011, a span of 12 home starts in between victories. "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."
The two starters were locked in a pitchers' duel in the early innings. In the first four innings, not a single baserunner for either team reached scoring position. Nationals left fielder Tyler Moore became the first with a one-out double in the fifth, but he was stranded.
Following the three-run fifth, Laynce Nix hit a sixth-inning home run off Tom Gorzelanny to give Lee a four-run cushion. It was Nix's first homer since May 3, and his first off a left-hander in eight seasons.
In all, Lee allowed seven hits and just the one run -- on an RBI double from Moore in the seventh -- and struck out five. He did not issue a walk. He's walked just one batter in his last 42 1/3 innings.
In the seventh, with a runner on base, Adam LaRoche smacked a high fly that hit the top of the railing in right field. LaRoche, like most in the park, assumed it was a home run. The Nationals' first baseman trotted past second base before the Phillies got the ball back to the infield and tagged him out on his way to third. Moore's double knocked in one run, but the lucky bounce helped Lee avoid a big inning.
For Lee, who hasn't gotten many bounces to go his way this season, that might have been a sign that it was his day.
"It feels good to give the team a chance to win any time," Lee said. "For us to follow through and get the win was big."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.