When he walked off the mound in the eighth inning Thursday night to a standing ovation, Adam Eaton tipped his cap and soaked in the moment.
Instead of heading into the clubhouse, Eaton stayed in the dugout and watched the Orioles get the last five outs of their 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox to preserve his best outing in nearly two years.
He wanted to celebrate this one with his new teammates.
"It felt great. It's been a long time since I have had that, and it felt very good," said Eaton, who struck out nine and didn't allow two base runners in an inning until the eighth. "Normally, I'd be in the clubhouse at the end of that game, but ... it felt good to be on the field shaking hands after something like that. Obviously, you want to get out there and thank the bullpen, too."
Eaton, released by the Philadelphia Phillies this spring despite being owed $9 million, previously allowed 10 runs in two four-inning starts for the Orioles - both losses - fueling criticism that the club should give his rotation spot to a minor league prospect.
Thursday, Eaton's critics were silenced temporarily as the announced crowd of 11,723 rose to its feet as he left with two on and one out and the Orioles leading 6-0 - his longest start since April 5, 2008.
The performance justified comments made Wednesday by Orioles manager Dave Trembley, who stressed Eaton had a spot in the rotation and was not going to be judged on two April starts.
"If you don't show confidence in your team, how the heck do you expect them to go out there and play?" Trembley said after Thursday's game. "My whole approach was to show confidence in not only him, but to take the emphasis off what he does and let everybody know it doesn't mean a hill of beans how the pitcher pitches if you don't play well behind him."
The Orioles (8-8) scored five runs in the first three innings to chase Bartolo Colon (1-1) and secure their fourth series win in five tries this season. Last year, they didn't win four until their 13th series.
Ty Wigginton had two hits, including an RBI single and a double, his first extra-base hit of the season, Luke Scott added a two-run double and Aubrey Huff had two hits.
But Eaton (1-2) didn't need much offense. He allowed just six hits and no walks in 7 1/3 innings and left without having allowed a run, the first time he had done that since June 11, 2007 - which also came against the White Sox while he was with Philadelphia.
The shutout bid ended when Jim Thome hit a two-run single off reliever Jim Johnson, scoring both of the runners charged to Eaton. It was Thome's revenge after being struck out three times by Eaton on fastballs. It was Eaton and catcher Chad Moeller's game plan to pound the strike zone with fastballs and cutters.
"We said before the game we were going to throw the fastball and throw it a lot," Moeller said. "Try and utilize his cutter and primarily try to pitch with those two pitches. I think it almost shocked them, based on some of the swings."
It all worked for Eaton, one day after getting a public vote of confidence from his manager.
"Dave is an optimist, and I think we all are," Eaton said. "I think if you play baseball and you are not an optimist, you are one miserable person. I don't know exactly what he said, but I know he said some good things. And hopefully he can say some more good things."
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