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Nationals’ Adam Eaton finally healthy and swinging it with both legs under him again

Adam Eaton is finally healthy again (after two-plus years) and he’s playing like the guy the Nationals traded for before the 2017 campaign...

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Adam Eaton homered in each of the previous three matchups going into the second game of the Washington Nationals’ four-game series in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, taking Jordan Lyles deep in the second of three with Milwaukee in D.C., hitting one off reliever Aaron Wilkerson in the fifth inning of the series finale with the Brewers, and hitting his third in that stretch off Pirates’ starter Trevor Williams in the second at bat of the opener with the Bucs.

Eaton also homered off Cincinnati Reds’ starter Trevor Bauer in the Nationals’ 17-7 blowout win last Wednesday, giving him home runs in three straight and four of five, with the Nationals’ 30-year-old outfielder 9 for 22 (.409/.500/1.182) with four doubles, a triple, the four homers, and three walks in 25 plate appearances over that stretch.

Eaton had a .351/.448/.702 line in the month of August before last night’s game, which left him with a .289/.373/.435 line overall on the season, with his 11 home runs overall this year four more than he hit in his first two campaigns with the Nationals combined.

He was, of course, dealing with knee and ankle injuries suffered just 23 games into his first season in D.C. in 2017, after he was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in return for right-handers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning the previous winter.

Eaton suffered a full ACL tear, meniscus tear, and a high ankle sprain when he’d stumbled at the first base bag running out a grounder in late April of 2017, and he ended up having to go under the knife again in 2018, with arthroscopic surgery to remove a flap of cartilage on the ankle he’d injured a year earlier.

Asked about his recent power surge, the outfielder told reporters on Monday that a lot of it has to do with finally feeling healthy two years after the devastating injuries.

“I finally have legs underneath me,” Eaton explained.

“I think that’s a big key. It’s hard to swing with one leg, I did that for two years and it wasn’t fun, so I think working with [Hitting Coach] Kevin [Long] and [Assistant Hitting Coach] Joe [Dillon] in the cage and just trying to get back to what I had in 2015-16, and even ‘14, just staying balanced, and like I said, my knee injury — I never thought I would say it, but two-plus years it’s bothered me, and kind of you know, trying to, it didn’t hurt, but of course just trying to iron out bad habits that I created over those two years.”

“He’s actually in a really good place right now in the batter’s box,” Davey Martinez said after the end of the finale with the Brewers on Sunday. “He really is. Another one that’s getting the ball in the strike zone, not chasing fastballs up, staying down where he’s really good, and he’s playing well, I mean he’s playing well all around the game, running the bases good, he’s doing everything well.”

“He’s being a little bit more patient, but aggressive in the strike zone, not chasing balls, per se, and laying off the high fastballs,” Martinez added when asked on Monday about all the power from Eaton, “... and when he can lay off the high fastballs, he’s a really good low ball hitter, and he’s been doing that.”

After homering for the first of 13 runs the Nationals scored in the series opening win over the Pirates, Eaton got hit with a 92 MPH sinker in the fifth inning last night, and he scored the Nats’ first run again, putting the visiting team up 1-0 after he’d singled and walked the first two times to the plate. It wasn’t enough, in what ended up a 4-1 loss, but Eaton went 1 for 2 with a walk and the run scored in the losing effort.