PHOENIX - The Phillies badly needed Adam Eaton to pitch well last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
He did. Finally.
"That's the best he's pitched," manager Charlie Manuel said.
But in a 10-game road trip in which very little has gone right, Eaton's best wasn't enough in a 3-2 loss that leaves the Phillies needing a victory today to finish 4-6 on this road trip through Atlanta, San Francisco and Arizona.
In seven innings, Eaton allowed seven hits, three runs, one walk and two home runs. He struck out four. That's an encouraging sign, considering that Eaton entered the night with an 8.18 ERA, the worst in baseball.
"We lost," Eaton said. "I felt better after I gave up six runs [Thursday in San Francisco] and we won than today when we lost. It's results. It's not how I pitched."
He threw 103 pitches, but his 96th proved most costly.
Eaton had two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Tony Clark pinch-hit for Diamondbacks pitcher Micah Owings. Pitching coach Rich Dubee met with Eaton on the mound to discuss the at-bat. But Eaton threw a slider low and away and Clark crushed it for a solo home run to right field for the go-ahead run.
Manuel had an opportunity to pinch-hit for Eaton in the top of the seventh inning with runners on first and third and two outs in a 2-2 game. He did not, and Eaton grounded out.
Owings was surprised to see Eaton hit.
"A little bit," he said. "I know they've got some quality bench hitters, but his pitch count was down."
It was. Manuel explained.
First, he said Eaton deserved to continue to pitch.
"He's a pretty good hitting pitcher," Manuel added. "I wanted him to stay in the game because he had thrown 87 pitches and he had the bottom of the order coming up. I wanted him to throw the seventh. We were going to have [Geoff] Geary in the eighth and we were going to go from there."
Interestingly, Manuel faced a somewhat similar situation in Monday's 4-3 loss. The Phillies had a runner on second with no outs in the seventh inning when he pinch-hit for Freddy Garcia. The Phillies trailed at the time and Manuel said he wanted to go for the win there with the top of the lineup coming up.
The Phillies scored the tying run in that inning but eventually lost when the bullpen allowed two runs.
"We haven't been hitting the ball real good," Manuel said. "We've been having a hard time scoring runs. I figured if we had the pitching right, in the long run that was going to help us win the game. Of course, it didn't turn out that way."
In the second inning, Eric Byrnes hit the first pitch from Eaton into the second deck in left field for a solo homer to make it 1-0. The ball traveled an estimated 473 feet, which tied it for the second-longest home run at Chase Field. Former Phillies third baseman Scott Rolen hit a 473-foot homer there on April 19, 1999.
Eaton allowed another run in the sixth to make it 2-1.
The Phillies had tied it at 1-1 in the fifth when Greg Dobbs, making his first start since April 22, hit an 0-1 pitch for a solo home run to right field. It was Dobbs' first homer for the Phillies.
Chase Utley then hit a leadoff homer to right in the seventh to make it 2-2. Abraham Nunez hit a two-out double in the inning and Owings intentionally walked Carlos Ruiz to face Eaton.
Manuel stuck with Eaton, who singled earlier, with Ryan Howard available to pinch-hit.
"I felt like the pitching was more likely than getting a two-out hit," Manuel said.
It seems like ancient history.
Fortunately for the Phillies they have lefthander Jamie Moyer on the mound today. He has been one of their most consistent performers this season.
Then again, the Phillies have had decent starting pitching against the Diamondbacks and come up empty. Garcia allowed two runs in six innings Monday. And then Eaton pitched well.
"I'm disappointed any time we lose, but we've definitely got to try to salvage a game," Manuel said.