Eaton returns to the mound Tuesday for the first time since Aug. 11 as the Phillies (68-62) continue an important four-game series against the NL East-leading New York Mets (73-57).
Eaton (9-8, 6.36 ERA) is hoping that the two-week layoff because of a shoulder injury will help him salvage what has been a disappointing first season in Philadelphia. The right-hander has the highest ERA among qualifying pitchers in the NL, and has a 9.47 ERA over his last four starts.
“The season’s results haven’t been to my liking,” Eaton told the Phillies’ official Web site. “I feel better because I can get my arm to do what I want. The two weeks off have helped.”
The time off didn’t seem to hurt Utley, who returned to the field on Monday for the first time since he broke his right hand July 26 when after being hit by a pitch from Washington rookie John Lannan. Utley went 3-for-5 with a homer, a double, two RBIs and a run scored in the Phillies’ 9-2 win, moving them within five games of the division leaders.
“Tonight was one night. You never know what can happen,” Utley said. “You can find a hole here or there. The main thing is to contribute to the team.”
The homer was Utley’s 18th of the season. He’s hitting .339 with 84 RBIs this season.
“He’s an excellent player,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “I’m not looking forward to seeing him.”
Eaton is trying for his first win since July 20 against the Padres. He lasted just three innings and allowed six runs on Aug. 11 in a 7-5 loss to Atlanta—four days before he was placed on the disabled list.
The right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five career starts against the Mets. In the two wins he has against them this season, he’s allowed just two runs in each.
Despite his disappointing record, Eaton doesn’t believe his current numbers mean he can’t finish the season successfully.
“Any time you make the playoffs, you forget the struggles,” he said. “The end result is what counts, and that’s making the playoffs, then winning the World Series.”
Pat Burrell and Tadahito Iguchi, who took over at second while Utley was out, also homered for Philadelphia on Monday. The Phillies’ 17 hits gave them at least 10 in four straight games. They had 14 runs and 17 hits in a 14-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
The Phillies remained three games behind NL wild-card leader San Diego.
New York catcher Paul Lo Duca, who missed 13 games because of a strained hamstring that he suffered Aug. 11 in a loss to Florida, went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in his return Monday. The Mets have lost two straight and four of six.
Mets veteran Tom Glavine (11-6, 4.32), who has made 62 career starts against the Phillies, is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three outings against them this season. Glavine is 28-17 with a 3.78 ERA in his career against Philadelphia and the 28 wins trail only the 30 he has recorded against the Washington/Montreal franchise.
The 41-year-old left-hander is 4-0 with a 4.19 ERA over his last nine outings, but is coming off a disappointing start on Thursday against the Padres when he allowed six runs and 11 hits in five innings of a 9-8, 10-inning loss. The 11 hits tied a season high and he threw just 48 of 96 pitches for strikes.
Glavine will be tested right from the start by Phillies leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins, who is a career .382 hitter against him.