Braves 8, Mets 0
ATLANTA (AP)—Jaret Wright learned the lessons from his youth, thanks mostly to shoulder surgeries in back-to-back years.
“Now, I realize you can’t always throw it at 120 percent—not if you want to pitch for a while,” Wright said.
The Mets acquired Benson from Pittsburgh a day earlier, hoping he would solidify their rotation. Pitching against the Braves for third straight start, Benson (8-9) lasted only five innings and lost for the second time in a row.
“They definitely had my number,” Benson said. “I didn’t pitch my game. It was awkward out there. That’s the first time that’s happened to me this season, where I didn’t really feel all that comfortable.”
There have been no such problems for Wright, a one-time phenom with the Cleveland Indians who started Game 7 of the 1997 World Series as a 21-year-old. At the time, he had only two thoughts on the mound—throw the ball hard or throw it harder.
That was before the shoulder troubles robbed him of the ability to do that. Although he still can reach the mid-90s with his fastball, he realizes he doesn’t need to.
“The biggest difference is now I want them to hit it,” Wright said. “I want them to put it in play. When you’re younger, you kind of fear contact, because the command isn’t there.”
Wright (9-5) allowed three hits in seven innings, and improved to 4-0 this month—joining teammates Russ Ortiz (5-0) and Mike Hampton (5-0) with unbeaten records in the month. Since falling to 2-5 in a loss to the Dodgers on May 22, Wright has won seven straight with a 2.29 ERA in 13 starts.
Did he have any idea he still could pitch like this?
“Nope,” he said. “It’s just been, for me, whatever happens when I pitch, happens. Then you go out there in four or five more days and do it again. As you get older, you realize nothing in the past really has any bearing on what you’re supposed to do in the next four or five days.”
When he was claimed off waivers by Atlanta last season, Wright appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen and finished 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA. He proved to the Braves—and himself—that he was healthy, and he came to spring training hoping to be a starter.
“I knew he had been outstanding in the bullpen,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “But he wanted to start, and I wanted him to real bad. We got him ready in the spring to do that, and he’s been on a roll ever since.”
Wright also had two hits and scored twice, while Estrada finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Chipper Jones and J.D. Drew drove in two runs apiece for the Braves, who were 20-6 in July and lead the division by 4 1/2 games.
It was Atlanta’s major league-leading 10th shutout.
Benson beat Atlanta 4-3 on July 21 as a member of the Pirates, allowing only two runs on five hits in eight innings. In Benson’s next outing, he went six innings in a 4-2 loss. The Braves tagged him for seven runs on seven hits in this one as the Mets lost for the 13th time in their past 18 games, and fell eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.
“It was the third time in 11 days, so it caught up to him a little,” New York manager Art Howe said. “I saw some things I liked. He’ll be fine.”
In the third, Wright bounced an infield single over Benson’s head, then later scored on a broken-bat single by Drew. Jones drove in Marcus Giles with a shallow sacrifice fly to left, and Estrada singled to score Drew and make it 3-0.
The Braves chased Benson with a four-run fifth, highlighted by Estrada’s three-run homer to right. His towering drive barely cleared the wall, landing in the first row of seats. Still, it gave Atlanta a 7-0 lead.
“I knew I got under it and hit it real high,” Estrada said. “But I knew I hit it real good.”
Drew made it 8-0 with an RBI single in the sixth, scoring Wright.
The Mets had a chance in the second, getting two on with two outs. But David Wright struck out to end the threat, and they had no more runners reach second.
Before the game, both teams made minor trades just before the no-waiver deadline. The Mets sent righty Scott Erickson to Texas for a player to be named, and the Braves got lefty reliever Tom Martin from the Dodgers for minor league pitcher Matt Merricks.
1B Eric Valent had two of the Mets’ five hits. … Giles and Drew each stole second against Mets C Mike Piazza for the second straight game. Piazza has thrown out only 21 percent (7-of-34) of basestealers this season. … When Jones scored on Estrada’s homer in the fifth, it was his 1,000th career run. He trails only Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Dale Murphy on the Braves’ career list. … Mets OF Gerald Williams, called up from Triple-A Norfolk on Friday, flied out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth.