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PHILADELPHIA -- Adam Eaton thought he struggled. He was a little here and a little there with his mechanics. Yet he adjusted. That wasn't always the case with the Phillies right-handed starter. Feeling a little sluggish often stirred a sinking feeling he couldn't escape from earlier this season. Bad mechanics meant big innings.
Not so against the Blue Jays on Sunday. Eaton was still able to get good movement on his fastball and slider, leading to his best start this season and a 5-3 victory in Interleague Play before 39,030 at Citizens Bank Park.
In doing so, Eaton helped lift the Phils to the .500 mark for the second time this season, at 22-22 (the Phils were previously .500 at 20-20). Eaton was brilliant, getting ahead of hitters and showing superb control in improving to 4-3.
Only Eaton didn't think so.
"Today was a struggle, it was a battle, because I was getting the ball up all day, but I had enough movement in the zone where I was able to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat," said Eaton, who delivered his third straight quality start (six innings, three runs or less).
"The key for me was that I was able to throw strikes. I readjusted and pitched with what I had. I've worked with variations of my fastball and slider and finally have them in tune with my mechanics. It's all finally coming together, since I moved over to the third-base side of the rubber. It's been a change, giving me slightly different sight lines of the plate. It might not have looked like it, but today was a struggle."
Eaton could have fooled his catcher, Rod Barajas, who thought the righty had a good, live fastball.
"That was the difference; Adam didn't allow too many people to get on base, because his fastball had some life to it," Barajas said. "That fastball caused some weak flies to right, because guys weren't able to get around on it."
Eaton gave up four hits over six innings. He had pinpoint control, getting ahead of most batters -- he just couldn't finish them off. He walked five, though he was also helped by two inning-ending double plays -- one from the outfield, when Aaron Rowand hauled in an Aaron Hill fly to double Troy Glaus off of first base in the second. That came after Vernon Wells lined into a double play that closed out the first.
Eaton would have liked to have pitched more than seven innings, but he went through some baserunning escapades in the bottom of the sixth, when he reached first on a throwing error by Blue Jays reliever Brian Tallet. Eaton took a wide turn on first, and later came chugging around to third on a Rowand single to right.
"Oh, I was beat after that," Eaton said, with a big grin on his face. "Anytime I'm running around the bases, that takes something out of me. I didn't make a great turn around second on [Rowand's single], and my legs felt a little heavy when I reached third."
The Phillies used the long ball to take a 2-0 lead. Pat Burrell drove a 2-1 pitch off Blue Jays starter Jesse Litsch over the left-field wall in the second for his sixth homer of the season. Rowand began the third with another solo shot, belting Litsch's 3-1 offering for his seventh homer.
Philadelphia tacked on another run in the third on Greg Dobbs' two-out single, which drove home Shane Victorino, who had walked.
Barajas scored the fourth run on Rowand's double-play ball in the fourth, and he scored again in the sixth on Rowand's two-out single up the middle. Barajas' 2-for-2 day raised his average more than 30 points, from .174 to .208.
"It was definitely nice to put some quality at-bats together, trying to swing at pitches in my zone," Barajas said. "If I stay in my comfort zone, it's just a mind-set. When you play once every four or five days, sometimes you try to do too much to impress people. I'm just going up there now with a good approach."
Geoff Geary couldn't preserve the shutout, giving up solo homers in the eighth to Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Matt Stairs. It made the game more interesting, until new Phils closer Brett Myers came on to get John McDonald to ground out -- thanks to a great diving play by second baseman Chase Utley -- to close the eighth.
"I thought that ball was hit a lot harder than it was, because I didn't think Chase had a chance at it," Myers said.
The Phils enjoyed their best homestand of the season, going 7-3 and scratching to within striking distance of second-place Atlanta, which hosts Philadelphhia next weekend. There is a confidence right now with this team, some players say. They feel it's been built over how well the Phillies have played the last 10 days.
"We got back to .500, but the ultimate goal is to be a division leader," Victorino said. "But we have a long way to go before we do that. [We'll be OK] as long as we keep taking two out of three and three out of four. Beating [Toronto] two out of three was big for us. Fortunately, right now, we're making the plays. We haven't gone on that big win streak yet, but hopefully it's something that will happen in the future for us."
As long as Eaton can continue giving the Phils quality starts -- whether he feels his mechanics are on or not.