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05/24/08 12:04 AM ET

Eaton effective, but Phils stifled by 'Stros

Righty gives up three runs; Burrell smashes 12th home run

HOUSTON -- Phillies starter Adam Eaton must wonder what he has to do to get a win this season.

Friday was another night of frustration for Eaton, who went seven innings and allowed three runs on eight hits in a 4-3 loss to the Astros.

To Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, it was a superb outing.

"That's the best I've seen him pitch since he's been here," Manuel said. "I thought his stuff was good. He was aggressive, he threw a consistent fastball and his command was very good.

"When he pitches like that, he should win the game."

The problem was, Astros starter Brandon Backe was even better. Backe went 7 1/3 innings and allowed only one run on six hits, striking out six.

"Backe pitched a tremendous game," Manuel said. "He got ahead of us and had us chasing balls in the dirt. He did a number on us.

"But other than the two home runs Eaton gave up [to Hunter Pence], I thought he threw a really good game."

Eaton, who struck out two and walked only one, now has seven no-decisions and three losses in his 10 starts. Including Friday's game, he has had five quality starts.

That's little consolation to a pitcher who is 0-3.

"I went out there and had some success early," Eaton said. "I got ahead of the hitters. But obviously, I made a few mistakes.

"I look at the two home runs. They were both fastballs up and over the plate. If you'd ask Pence what he wanted, he'd probably say just that."

Still, Eaton knew he had pitched well overall.

"I felt comfortable out there tonight," he said. "This is much more of the kind of pitcher I am. I was able to throw all of my pitches for strikes.

"I guess if you get into the seventh, regardless of what happens and you have given your team a chance to win, that's supposed to be good. There's no exception to that rule."

Eaton has historically pitched well against the Astros. He had a 3-1 record with a 4.43 ERA against Houston entering Friday, including a 2-0 mark with a 4.12 ERA in Minute Maid Park.

"I do enjoy pitching here," he said. "I enjoy pitching here with the roof on. It helps me a little bit.

"It's a good lineup to face and always has been with [Craig] Biggio and [Jeff] Bagwell here. I enjoy facing Hall of Fame-type players.

"And they still have a lot of good hitters with [Lance] Berkman, [Carlos] Lee and [Miguel] Tejada."

Pat Burrell hit a home run for the second straight game, giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

Houston tied it on Pence's solo home run in the fifth, then went ahead to stay on Pence's second homer in the seventh.

The Phillies, though, mounted a rally in the ninth against closer Jose Valverde. It was punctuated by a vicious line drive off Pedro Feliz's bat that glanced off Valverde's glove and cheek. It scored Pat Burrell from third, but nobody thought about the score of the game for several minutes.

Valverde lay on the ground nearly two minutes while trainers, players and officials surrounded him.

At first, Feliz appeared upset as he watched from first base and Valverde didn't move.

"I wasn't happy about it," Feliz said. "I didn't try to do it.

"In the beginning, when he was on the ground, I thought it doesn't look good from where I could see. I was happy to see him get up and that he was fine."

Valverde was strong enough to return to the mound. While he gave up a run-scoring double to Jimmy Rollins, he coaxed Shane Victorino into flying out to center to end the game and earn his 15th save.

"I thought he was hurt seriously," Manuel said. "I couldn't tell from where I was."

Jim Carley is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.