Considering the way the season has started, a black cat might have ended the Phillies' season right here. With professional athletes a superstitious lot, a feline symbolic of bad luck can't be looked at as a positive thing.
"We're not going to talk about the cat, OK," said manager Charlie Manuel.
No problem, Charlie. Philadelphia had Wednesday's game well in control well before the four-legged friend appeared. Eaton tossed seven solid innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks, while striking out five.
One of the hits was a single to Jose Reyes that led off the game, and Reyes quickly stole second. Eaton got Paul Lo Duca on a groundout and whiffed Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Considering how much damage Reyes can do when he reaches base, that had to be considered a small victory.
"Reyes can get your attention," Manuel said.
"That set the tone," Eaton said.
Philadelphia's "big" inning came in the third, when Oliver Perez struggled to throw strikes. He
allowed a two-out, bases-empty single to Chase Utley, then walked Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Wes Helms
and Aaron Rowand, forcing in two runs. For good measure, Perez then plunked Rod Barajas, forcing in the third run and ending his evening.
The Phillies had entered the game batting .188 with runners in scoring position, but they didn't
need a hit.
"We'll take 'em any way we can," Manuel said. "A run is a run."
Perez (1-1) surrendered seven of the 11 walks issued by Mets pitchers, leading to a game that lasted three hours and five minutes. The Phillies added another run in the sixth, when Jimmy Rollins laced a one-out triple and scored on a sacrifice fly.
Rowand doubled in the final run for the Phillies, the only hit of Philadelphia's nine chances with a runner in scoring position. The Phillies left 14 men on base.
"Tonight was a perfectly played baseball game," Helms said. "We capitalized on their mistakes. We really didn't have a big hit, except for Aaron's double down the line. We played small ball. We got three runs off three walks and a hit batsman. That's what we have to do. We can't all try to be heroes. If we do that, the big knocks will come."
Tagged for eight runs -- seven earned -- in his first outing on April 5, Eaton threatened to
give up the lead in the fourth, when the Mets loaded the bases with no outs on a double, walk and a hit
Alou hit a smash to Utley, who knocked it down, then recovered to flip to Rollins, who completed the double play. One run scored, but that was it.
"My ears were stirring, because he hit it really hard," Eaton said.
"That was outstanding," Manuel said. "A real big play in the game. Alou smoked the ball and Utley made a good play on it."
With Eaton gone after the seventh inning having thrown 108 pitches, Manuel turned the game over
to the bullpen. A sore spot in the first week healed itself for one night. Antonio Alfonseca may have secured the setup job with a perfect eighth inning, and closer Tom Gordon recorded his first save.
The Phillies executed. They scored enough runs, got seven solid innings from the starter and the bullpen held the lead. That's something the team can get used to.
"We know we haven't played as well as we'd like," Gordon said. "We know we have the talent, and we believe in ourselves. We need to get back to the basics. Everything is small until it blows up on you. We just need to get back to where we feel comfortable. All of us have played this game and have to make the game as easy as possible without adding any extra pressure. The important thing is to have fun."
Like a cat at Shea Stadium, who unselfishly left the field without delaying the game, or Eaton's rhythm.
"He went right in the corner where he should, looking for some rats, I think," Eaton said. "It might find some bigger than him out there."