Dodgers 10, Mets 2

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NEW YORK (AP)—Robin Ventura circled the bases one more time, passing Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in the record book and pulling alongside Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx with his 17th grand slam.

“It’s nice to even be mentioned in any category whatsoever with those guys,” Ventura said modestly.

On a muggy Sunday afternoon that saw Ventura draw more cheers than the Mets, he led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 10-2 victory over sinking New York that maintained their five-game lead in the NL West.

At 37 and a role player these days, Ventura remains as unassuming as ever. Even though he’s had just 19 starts and 117 at-bats, he’s been a key for the Dodgers, seeking their first playoff berth since 1996.

He had tiebreaking, pinch RBI single in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win over San Diego on April 6, a pinch two-run homer for a 7-6 win at Arizona on July 17 and a pinch 12th-inning homer for a 2-1 victory at San Diego on Aug. 1.

“To have a player of this guy’s magnitude and have other players see how he allows himself to be managed, how he’ll do whatever you ask him to do, you can’t put a price tag on that,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “Those type of people are invaluable to a successful club.”

Ventura, a .342 hitter (63-for-184) with the bases loaded with 209 RBIs, came up with Los Angeles ahead 4-1 in the fifth inning. He fouled a pitch to deep right before sending a 340-foot drive down the right-field line that was less than a foot fair and a couple of inches above the 8-foot fence.

It was his third homer in 20 at-bats against Kris Benson (10-11) and gave Ventura the 1,000th run scored of his career. Mets fans, who booed their team for a pair of errors that led to three unearned runs, cheered Ventura, who played for the Mets from 1999-01.

“He hit a fastball in,” Benson said. “That’s where I wanted to throw it. But that’s where, I guess, he was looking to hit it.”

Ventura, the active leader in grand slams, helped the Mets win Game 5 of the 1999 NL championship series with a grand slam-single at Shea Stadium. With the bases loaded in the 15th inning, he hit the ball over the right-center fence against Atlanta’s Kevin McGlinchy. Ventura was mobbed by his teammates near second base and was credited only with a single because he and Todd Pratt, who was on first, never finished circling the bases.

Ventura, who has just four homers this season, is tied for fourth on the grand slam list, trailing only Lou Gehrig (23), Eddie Murray (19) and Willie McCovey (18). He’s batting .222, 45 points below his career average entering the season, and realizes how hard it is to keep a stroke when you don’t play every day.

“Most of what you see is the batting-practice pitcher,” he said.

Kazuhisa Ishii (13-6) won his second straight start after going 0-1 during a five-start span. He allowed one run and four hits in six innings, leaving after 70 pitches because of a stiff back. Elmer Dessens pitched a hitless seventh and Scott Stewart finished in his Dodgers debut, allowing rookie Jeff Keppinger’s second homer in two days in the ninth.

Benson dropped to 2-3 since the Mets acquired him from Pittsburgh on July 30, tying his season high by allowing eight runs in four-plus innings. Three of the runs were unearned because of his error and one by left fielder Cliff Floyd.

Benson, who has thrown 167 1-3 innings, considers this a rehab year following three seasons shortened by injuries.

“It’s been four years since I’ve pitched this many innings,” he said. “My shoulder is tired.”

Cesar Izturis matched his season high with four hits, including a triple, as Los Angeles sent the Mets to their seventh loss in eight games. Olmedo Saenz hit a ninth-inning solo homer off John Franco that bounced off a speaker behind the fence in left-center—it was first ruled a double, but umpires correctly reversed the call.

Adrian Beltre’s run-scoring double in the first—his 98th RBI—put the Dodgers ahead, but Richard Hidalgo’s 22nd homer tied it in the second.

Then in the fourth, Floyd fought the sun and let Ventura’s fly bounce off his glove for an error. Brent Mayne hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly, Ishii singled up the middle and Ventura, who held at third, came around when center fielder Gerald Williams’ throw home skipped off Benson’s leg for the Mets’ NL-high 116th error. Izturis followed with an RBI single.

“I didn’t want to get hit in the face,” Floyd said.


CF Mike Cameron, originally in the Mets’ lineup, was removed because he didn’t feel well. … Dodgers RHP Brad Penny (strained right biceps) made 50 throws from 115 feet on flat ground. … The Mets plan to activate C-1B Mike Piazza on Monday. … Izturis has 49 multihit games.

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