- - Monday, August 19, 2019

Adam Eaton emphatically points out that the back of his baseball card shows a penchant for home runs and extra-base hits.

Now he is providing that ability in a big way.

“Sometimes I can hit the ball out of the infield,” Eaton joked. “I don’t have to use my legs so much.”

The lefty hitter has batted .370 in his previous seven games for the Nationals, .339 over the last 15 and .308 over the past 30 contests going into Monday night’s game in Pittsburgh.

But he does more than bat for average. In those past seven games, Eaton hit three home runs with 11 runs, nine RBI and an .889 slugging percentage. He has become part of a formidable duo at the top of the Nationals’ order, batting second behind leadoff hitter Trea Turner.



“He and Trea are the spark plugs of this team,” Nationals catcher Yan Gomes said.

Through Sunday, Eaton was batting .289 with 10 homers and 38 RBI with an .803 OPS. He went 8-for-11 in the last two games of the series with Milwaukee, including two homers and a triple. His career-high for homers is 14, which he accomplished in each of his final two seasons with the White Sox in 2015 and 2016.

The Nationals have enjoyed consistency from the top five hitters in their lineup in Turner, Eaton, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Matt Adams.

“Probably one of the better in the game,” Gomes said of the five. “You have speed, you have guys who put the ball in play and then you have your thumpers.”

Eaton, nicknamed “Spanky,” is part of that speed as well. He is still a threat on the bases, with 13 steals and the ability to bunt for a hit when needed.

Eaton has taken a lot of hits on social media from upset Nationals fans. Prior to the 2017 season, Washington acquired him from the White Sox for three young pitchers — Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

Giolito, who never put it together with the Nationals, became an All-Star starter this year for the White Sox. Giolito is 13-6 with a 3.41 ERA while Lopez is 7-10 and a 5.29 ERA in the Chicago rotation.

Some Washington fans would love to have Giolito back, noting a dearth of pitching depth in the minor-league system.

But with the loss of Bryce Harper, Eaton is playing right field and trying to make Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo look good for the trade.

“He plays 100 miles per hour with his hair on fire,” Rizzo said at the time of the trade.

Eaton was born in Springfield, Ohio. He played at Division I Miami of Ohio and was drafted in 2010 by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 19th round.

He made his big-league debut with Arizona in 2012 and then played for the White Sox from 2014 to 2016 before coming to Washington.

In recent days, pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Sean Doolittle said veteran leadership helped the team bounce back from a 19-31 record in late May. At 67-56, Washington was a season-high 11 games over .500 before facing the Pirates on Monday.

Eaton, 30, is part of that leadership.

“Our depth and the older guys in here kind of set the tone,” Eaton said.

That was sorely needed Sunday, when players didn’t get to bed until about 3 a.m. after a 14-inning loss Saturday night to the Brewers.

“We all get it: We are tired. We are here and let’s get the job done,” Eaton said. “Our veteran leadership is the key.”

The Nationals will play four games in Pittsburgh and three in Chicago against the Cubs this weekend before coming back home Aug. 27 to face the Baltimore Orioles. Washington is leading the National League wild card race, while trailing the Atlanta Braves by 5½ games through Sunday in the NL East.

“Now we go to Pittsburgh,” Eaton said. “We have to take care of business,” Eaton said. “We are all looking forward to it. It is going to be a big road trip for us.”

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