Eaton, the team’s ERA leader, can match his career high with his fourth straight victory as the Padres complete their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
The 25-year-old right-hander, who began the season 2-7 with a 4.63 in his first 15 starts, has won three consecutive decisions while posting an 0.94 ERA with 15 strikeouts.
Eaton’s performance is reminiscent of the early part of his 2001 season, when he finished 8-5 and led the team in strikeouts (109) before an elbow injury ended his season on July 5. He had “Tommy John” surgery Aug. 21, 2001, and appeared in only six games in 2002.
Eaton was stellar even in the Padres’ 5-2 loss at San Francisco on Friday, allowing just two earned runs and four hits over seven innings. He didn’t get the decision.
“He’s back to where he was before the surgery,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. “I thought he came into the year fully recovered from his surgery. But he’s got good command on his fastball now and seems to have control of all of his pitches.”
Eaton, who has given up just one homer in his last eight starts and eight all year, will try to keep Reggie Sanders in the ballpark after the Pirates right fielder hit two homers to lift Pittsburgh to a 7-2 victory Wednesday.
Sanders, who homered for the third straight game, finished with five RBIs. He is batting .348 (8-for-23) during a six-game hitting streak with five homers and 11 RBIs.
Sanders, who played for the last two NL champions, Arizona in 2001 and San Francisco in 2002, is being looked at by several contenders as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches.
“I’ll be glad when tomorrow’s over, most definitely, whatever way it goes,” Sanders said. “It’s always in the back of your mind. There’s a lot of uncertainty that goes with it.”
San Diego has lost four of six.
The Pirates have won seven of 11. They are 15-12 this month, assuring themselves of their first winning July since they were 15-12 in 1997.
STANDINGS: Padres - 5th place, 27 1/2 GB, NL West. Pirates - 4th place, 7 1/2 GB, NL Central.
PADRES PROBABLE STARTER: Eaton (5-7, 3.87 ERA). Eaton is 1-1 all-time against the Pirates with an 8.10 ERA. In one start this season, he is 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA against Pittsburgh.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Josh Fogg (6-5, 5.25 ERA). Fogg is 4-2 in his last eight starts, allowing more than three earned runs only twice. Saturday was one of those times as the right-hander gave up seven earned runs and 10 hits over four innings in a 13-8 loss at St. Louis. Fogg, in only his third major league season, has never faced the Padres. He is 3-2 with a 4.14 at home this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Padres - Mark Loretta, .314 avg. and 46 runs; Ryan Klesko, 20 HRs and 59 RBIs; Gary Matthews Jr. and Ramon Vazquez, 8 SBs. Pirates - Brian Giles, .306 avg., and 57 RBIs; Sanders, 21 HRs and 7 SBs; Jason Kendall, 60 runs.
SEASON SERIES: Pirates, 4-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Padres - 3B Sean Burroughs is batting .172 (5-for-29) over his last 10 games despite a 2-for-4 effort Wednesday. … RF Phil Nevin has four RBIs in six games since returning from the DL. … 2B Loretta is batting .360 (9-for-25) over his last six games with seven RBIs. Pirates - OF Sanders homered in three consecutive games for the fourth time. … The Pirates are 8-24 at home against California teams since moving into PNC Park in 2001. … OF Giles hit a two-run homer Wednesday, picking up his 200th career homer and 1,000th hit in the same game.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Padres - 19-35 on the road; Pirates - 23-30 at home.
INJURIES: Padres - INF Keith Lockhart (back), 15-day DL; OF Jason Bay (wrist), 15-day DL; RHP Trevor Hoffman (shoulder), 60-day DL. Pirates - RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brandon Lyon (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL.