IT WASN'T LONG ago that Phillies fans were wondering why this team invested $24.5 million over 3 years on a pitcher who began the season with an 8.81 ERA through his first six starts.
Well, that was about 2 weeks ago, just before Adam Eaton made his turnaround. He continued to prove his value yesterday, allowing no runs and just four hits in six-plus innings of work in the Phillies' 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park.
"It's always nice to be appreciated for the job you do," said Eaton, who received a standing ovation from the 39,030 in attendance when he was removed in the seventh inning.
"My effort level is the same regardless of the outcome. Obviously, you're going to get more of a warmer reception when you are pitching well, though."
Eaton, who made his third straight quality start, improved to 4-3 and has an earned run average of 5.70.
While Eaton has progressed from his early-season woes, when he gave up 32 hits and 25 runs through 28 innings in his first five starts, his outing yesterday afternoon wasn't exactly flawless, either, as he also walked five batters - his most since April 5 against the Braves.
Manager Charlie Manuel said the biggest adjustment he has seen in Eaton has been an increase in his aggressiveness when he gets behind in the count.
"I think once he starts putting guys away before he gets into a 3-2 count, or let a hitter work him into their favor, he should be able to take us deeper pitching into the seventh or eighth inning," Manuel said.
Eaton might have been able to go longer than facing one batter in the seventh had he not run out of gas running from first to third in the sixth inning. After Aaron Rowand singled on a line drive to rightfield, scoring Rod Barajas, Eaton, who reached base on a sacrifice bunt and a throwing error by Blue Jays pitcher Brian Tallet, turned on the jets, much to the surprise of his coaches and teammates.
"It was pretty funny when I saw him starting to take off. All I could think was, 'Slow down, baby, you still have to pitch,' " said Shane Victorino, who doubled in the eighth and scored a run in the third.
"I enjoyed it. I take pride in my hitting and pride in baserunning," said Eaton, who has scored 25 times in his 7 years in the major leagues. "I got a little bit of heat when I rounded second, but I thought I did a pretty good job and maybe surprised [rightfielder Alex] Rios in that situation."
Eaton was pulled in favor of Geoff Geary in the seventh following a single by Royce Clayton.
Geary came in and picked up where Eaton began, but created his own mess in the eighth, allowing three home runs in 12 pitches.
Rios and centerfielder Vernon Wells homered for the Blue Jays to start the inning.
By the time Geary gave up his third home run to leftfielder Matt Stairs, who hit a home run in every game this series, he would be hit with a wrath of boos as he left the mound with his head down.
"He's good when he comes in and pops the ball and stays aggressive. Today I don't think he was getting the ball where he wanted it," Manuel said of Geary, who pitched 1 2/3 innings.
Pat Burrell, who was a major force for the Phillies during their 7-3 homestand, hit his sixth home run of the season when he sent a solo shot to centerfield, giving the Phils a 1-0 lead in the second.
Manuel said Burrell, who batted .300 (9-for-30) with two doubles, eight runs scored and 11 RBI during the homestand, has been doing a good job of keeping his balance and weight back at the plate. He hopes Burrell's hot streak can continue as the Phils start a six-game road trip in Florida tomorrow.
"Any time you hit the ball good, that's what builds confidence and starts streaks," Manuel said. "I want him to be consistent like he was a couple years ago."
While the Phillies find their record at the .500 mark following a successful homestand that also included series wins over the Cubs and Brewers, they know they have to get it done on the road if they want to gain ground in the NL East standings.
The Phillies are 9-12 on the road.
"It's nice to come home and win some games instead of struggling, but now we have to go and get it done on the road," Eaton said. *