NEW YORK (AP) -- In his first start, Kris Benson had stamina
problems. In his second start, he had focus problems. So Monday
night's third start was an important one for the New York Mets
right-hander, slotted as the No. 3 man in their rotation.
Benson delivered, limiting Cincinnati to four hits in 7 2/3
innings in the Mets' 9-2 victory over the Reds. He struck out
eight, walked two and left feeling good about what he had done."I stuck with my game plan, with what I've been concentrating
on," Benson said. "I feel like I'm getting back in the groove.,
Hopefully, I can continue with good outings."Mets manager Willie Randolph hopes so, too."Benson is a key for us," he said. "He's our No. 3. He came
in and dominated. He had a good slider, a sinker down in the zone
and good movement."Benson (1-1), who began the season on the disabled list with a
strained chest muscle, allowed just two hits after the second
inning. He threw 112 pitches before Dae-Sung Koo relieved with two
outs in the eighth.He pitched 4 2/3 innings in his first start, then gave up four
homers over six innings in his second start."The longer I pitch, the better I feel," he said. "I feel now
I'm where I need to be. I feel more relaxed. Today was a big jump.
I threw a lot of pitches and I had a good outing."Benson benefited from six extra-base hits, one of them the 11th
homer of the season by Cliff Floyd. New York scored four runs in
the first two innings and provided a comfort zone for Benson."We kept scoring and that was a relief for me," he said.Cincinnati manager Dave Miley was impressed."We got four hits so I guess he threw the ball pretty well,"
Miley said. "The way Benson was throwing, we didn't have many
chances."The Mets backed Benson with 13 hits.Jose Reyes led off the first with a triple to right center, his
first three-base hit of the season. After Mike Cameron was called
out on strikes, Carlos Beltran scored Reyes with a sacrifice fly.Then Floyd lined a 2-2 pitch from Paul Wilson (1-5) into one of
the mezzanine suites in right field, a home run estimated at 395
feet. On Friday night, he banged a pair of 400-plus foot shots off
the right field scoreboard. He is tied for the NL lead in homers.The Reds picked up a run in the second when Adam Dunn singled,
moved to third on a wild pitch that Mets catcher Mike Piazza
couldn't locate and scored on a two-out single by Jason LaRue.But the Mets made it 4-1 with two more in the bottom half of the
inning. Doug Mientkiewicz opened with a single and raced to third
on a double by David Wright. Kaz Matsui's sacrifice fly scored
Mientkiewicz, and Wright came home when Benson singled to left and
Dunn kicked the ball for an error.The Reds scored again in the sixth when Ryan Freel opened with a
walk and came home on a double by Felipe Lopez. After Lopez
advanced to third on an infield out, Ken Griffey Jr. flied to right
and Cameron cut down Lopez trying to score after the catch with a
perfect throw to Piazza.Floyd opened the Mets sixth with a walk, moved to third on a
double by Piazza and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mientkiewicz.
Wright's second double scored Piazza and finished Wilson, who gave
up eight hits. Matsui then singled home Wright.In the seventh, Beltran singled, raced to third on a single by
Piazza and scored on an infield out. Then Piazza took third on a
wild pitch and scored when LaRue threw the ball into left field.
Floyd's first-inning home run marked the 15th straight game
in which Cincinnati pitchers have surrendered a homer. The homer
gave Floyd 26 RBI in the last 29 games. ... Benson retired 10
straight batters from the second through the sixth innings.