Piazza puts up three hits as Mets blank Dodgers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Kris Benson told manager Willie Randolph he wanted to try for the shutout. After pitching eight dominant innings, the response he got was a little surprising.

"Willie laughed at me," Benson said.

Benson gave up just four hits and walked one in the New York Mets' 6-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, but because he's superstitious and doesn't check the scoreboard, he didn't know he had thrown 125 pitches.

"I just go out there and keep throwing," Benson said.

Randolph's decision to pinch-hit for Benson in the eighth was made easier because there were runners on second and third.

"His pitch count was up but we could have sent him back out," Randolph said. "He was just smooth today."

Mike Piazza hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs, Carlos Beltran tripled and Cliff Floyd had an RBI double as the Mets won for the sixth time in seven games and moved four games over .500 (51-47) to match a season high.

With his 12th home run of the season and 390th of his career, Piazza passed Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench on the all-time home-run list.

"We're peaking but we got to continue to peak," Randolph said. "We need to show consistency. We've been up and down."

Los Angeles dropped to 7-13 in July, 3-3 on its six-game road trip.

"Well there's a silver lining in it," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "We go 3-3 on the trip and we gained three games [on San Diego in the NL West] heading home."

Benson (7-3) didn't allow a baserunner until Cesar Izturis
bunted for a single with one out in the fourth, one batter after Benson took a shot off his right leg. That ball deflected to third baseman David Wright, who threw to first in time to record the 10th straight out.

"He threw 120-something pitches today," Floyd said. "I looked up there and was shocked because it didn't seem that many."

Working at a deliberate pace, Benson scattered four singles -- two didn't make it out of the infield -- and struck out five. His only walk came in the fourth, when the Dodgers loaded the bases with two outs.

But Benson ended that jam by getting Hee-Seop Choi to fly out to right field, just one of five outfield outs.

"That was definitely a big pickup, getting out without any runs scored," Benson said.

Piazza gave the Mets a 2-0 lead in the second with his third homer since the All-Star break, with all three eliciting curtain calls.

"They're spoiling me right now," Piazza said.

He was credited with an RBI single in the third when his hard-hit grounder took a high bounce off second baseman Jeff Kent's
chest, allowing Floyd to score and make it 4-0. Floyd had doubled off the outstretched glove of center fielder Milton Bradley after Beltran tripled over Bradley's head.

Piazza added a single off Brad Penny in the fifth and is 11-for-26 (.423) against him for his career.

"I feel I'm seeing the ball great," Piazza said. "I had a nice, relaxed swing. I wish I could copy it all the time."

Piazza was given Thursday and Saturday off by Randolph and credited the extra rest with his success.

"It's just one of those things that when I get one I feel like I've had a few days off," he said.

Penny (5-6) didn't have any better success at Shea Stadium as a member of the Dodgers. He came in 1-6 with a 6.32 ERA in eight starts, all with Florida. On Sunday, he gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings. It was the first time he has allowed more than three runs in a start since June 10.

"I wasn't locating the ball well," Penny said.

On Piazza's single off diving shortstop Izturis' glove in the fifth, Floyd was thrown out trying to score. Floyd hesitated rounding third and then ran over Mike Rose, but the 28-year-old rookie catcher, with Floyd on top of him, held the ball up for plate umpire Jim Reynolds to see.

Pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson's two-run single off Scott Erickson in the eighth made it 6-0.

The last two runs allowed Randolph to give his late-inning relievers extra rest heading into a three-game series in Colorado starting Monday.

"If we didn't score those two runs, [Braden] Looper would have come in," Randolph said.

Game notes
Rose threw out Jose Reyes trying to steal in the second inning. ... Reyes' streak of at least one steal in six straight
games ended. ... Wright has hit in a career-high 11 consecutive games. ... The Mets plan to option right-hander Heath Bell to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday and purchase the contract of right-hander Jose Santiago. New York will also announce a move to make room for Santiago on the 40-man roster.