Jon Lieber is far more productive as a starter than as a reliever.
Lieber limited the Nationals to two runs in six innings, Chase Utley was 5 for 5 with three RBIs, and the Phillies beat Washington, 9-3, tonight for their fifth straight win.
Jimmy Rollins hit his NL-leading eighth homer and Ryan Howard added a two-run shot, helping the Phillies (9-11) move closer to .500 after a terrible start.
Lieber (1-0) gave up five hits, striking out five in his second start since moving into the rotation after ace Brett Myers was sent to the bullpen to bolster a struggling relief corps.
Lieber tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings at Cincinnati last Friday. The veteran righthander allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings in the bullpen, but has a 1.54 ERA in his two starts.
Myers pitched a scoreless eighth to preserve a four-run lead before Rollins connected to make it 9-3 in the bottom half of the inning.
Utley had three singles and two doubles for his first career five-hit game. He raised his average to .296 from .250.
John Patterson (0-4) retired the first two batters in the third inning before Utley doubled off the left-field wall. Leftfielder Robert Fick turned the wrong way on the ball, though he probably didn't have a play.
Howard then snapped a 1-for-9 slump with his third homer to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead. Howard hit a fastball into the right-field seats. The reigning NL MVP is hitting .213 with 23 strikeouts in 61 at-bats.
The Phillies scored three times in the sixth to extend their lead to 7-2. One run came in when second baseman Ronnie Belliard dropped Shane Victorino's popup to shallow right field for an error with the bases loaded. Utley followed with a two-run single to left.
Lieber retired the first nine batters, getting all five of his strikeouts. But Felipe Lopez singled to start the fourth and Belliard followed with an infield single. After Ryan Zimmerman hit into a double play, Dmitri Young looped a single just past second baseman Utley's glove to cut it to 3-1. Austin Kearns followed with an RBI double that nearly cleared the center-field fence to make it 3-2.
Utley ripped a two-out double down the right-field line to score Rollins, giving the Phillies a 4-2 lead in the fifth.
Patterson, the Nationals' struggling No. 1 starter, gave up six runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.