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Eaton, Phillies shut down White Sox

Eaton, Phillies shut down White Sox

PHILADELPHIA -- Behold the grace of Adam Eaton.

The way he dove to catch a popped-up bunt, or awkwardly sprinted to cover first base on a deep grounder to Ryan Howard, or the way he caught the ball off the end of his bat and nearly came away with a home run.

All right, so many of the plays Eaton makes come off as unintentional comedy. But it's fine with him, especially after games like Monday's 3-0 win against the White Sox at Citizens Bank Park.

He has enough one-liners to counter his serious demeanor during the game.

"When a guy hits one -- like Pat [Burrell] or Ryan -- the ball gets real small, like a golf ball," said Eaton, explaining how he knew his third-inning shot didn't have enough. "Mine stayed real big."

Laugh if you'd like, but Eaton pulled off his second consecutive quality start, one that followed a series loss in Kansas City. He was aided by three solo home runs, from Burrell, Howard and Jimmy Rollins.

And he has remained one of the Phillies' most reliable starters, especially considering the events of Monday.

Embattled starter Freddy Garcia underwent an MRI on Monday and learned that he had pathology in his labrum and a frayed rotator cuff. He's expected to get a second opinion, and it isn't certain when he'll be back. In his place, the Phillies will call up Kyle Kendrick from Double-A Reading to start Wednesday.

So a Phillies rotation that in April was expected to challenge for the National League's best has taken its hits, but Eaton is doing his part to hold it together.

The 29-year-old righty sounded as if he took it personally when someone asked how he would recover following a rough, two-inning outing on June 1 against the Giants. Eaton allowed five runs and four walks during that short stint.

He followed it up with a gritty win at New York and then one at home on Monday. He found trouble on a couple of occasions, but worked out of it with timely defensive plays, including his diving catch of a fifth-inning bunt and racing to cover first on a ground ball to end the inning.

"I was posed the question, 'Do you think you can bounce back?'" Eaton said. "I think I answered that question."

As did the Phillies, who left everyone scratching their heads with a 17-5 loss to the Royals on Sunday. The series loss to Kansas City followed a sweep of the National League East-leading Mets at Shea Stadium last week.

Each member of the Phillies organization asked about the recent up-and-down nature of the team had essentially the same answer.

"You can bounce back and start all over from scratch," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "[Sunday] was a very bad day. Tonight was good."

"There's games when you're going to get beat," said Howard, who hit a two-out solo shot in the fourth.

But one consensus among the Phillies is this: they need to get more consistent.

Manuel said before the game that consistency starts with pitching. And that's where Eaton was able to help.

White Sox pitcher Javier Vazquez, as Eaton pointed out, didn't need to pitch from the stretch until the sixth inning. Shane Victorino singled to give the Phillies their first baserunner following the three home runs.

Three pitches did in Vazquez because the Phillies' bullpen was able to hold the relatively modest lead.

Mike Zagurski continued his impressive inauguration with a perfect eighth. He improved his ERA to 3.38 and hasn't allowed a run in seven of eight appearances. Antonio Alfonseca picked up his fourth save of the season to quell worries about the status of Brett Myers.

Alfonseca's biggest accomplishment was keeping Jim Thome at the on-deck circle.

The former Phillies slugger received an ovation when he emerged from the dugout as a possible pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth. But Alfonseca struck out Luis Terrero to end the game, stranding Juan Uribe at first.

"We don't want Thome up there where he can try and win the game for them," Manuel said.

"I was happy to see that the crowd gave him a great round of applause," said Howard, who replaced Thome as the Phillies first baseman.

Howard got his own round of applause with his 13th home run of the season. Rollins added a solo shot in the sixth, and Eaton was able to escape some shaky situations to make them count

He gave up two base hits to begin the fifth, then struck out Josh Fields. Vazquez, an American League pitcher not accustomed to using a bat, then attempted to bunt the runners over. The ball popped up to the third-base side of the mound, and Eaton laid out to make the stab.

The crowd roared its approval.

"The safe play is to try and get to the ball before it's a questionable play," Eaton said.

Laugh if you want.

Stephen Fastenau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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