Mets 4, Marlins 0
Rejuvenated after skipping one turn in the rotation, Benson gained some leverage in ongoing contract talks by pitching a shutout into the seventh inning, and struggling New York cooled off the Florida Marlins, 4-0.
The Mets snapped an 11-game losing streak while stopping the Marlins’ franchise record-tying nine-game winning streak. New York also ended a run of 10 consecutive losses to Florida.
“Kris gave us exactly what we needed—a bunch of zeros on the board,” Mets manager Art Howe said.
Benson (11-11) had been idle since Aug. 29 while nursing a sore shoulder. He can become a free agent after this season and has been talking with the Mets about a multiyear deal.
“As far as negotiations are concerned, it has been pretty quiet,” he said. “I think they’ve been waiting to see that my arm’s not going to fall off when I go out and pitch, which is smart. At the same time, I knew nothing would happen … so hopefully things will pick up and we’ll be able to get things done in a hurry.”
Benson limited Florida to five hits and a walk in six-plus innings. He improved to 3-3 since joining New York, with an ERA of 6.43.
“One start off did wonders,” he said. “I came into today with a lot of confidence knowing that I had some rest, and my arm felt great.”
The Marlins’ recent surge has put them in the thick of the race for the NL wild-card berth. They had three extra-base hits and put their leadoff batter on base four times but stranded four runners in scoring position.
“You can’t win them all,” said Juan Pierre, who reached base three times and extended his hitting streak to 16 games. “We had a lot of opportunities to score runs and just didn’t do the job. We didn’t execute in situations we’ve been executing in.”
New York totaled 11 hits even with Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd taking the day off. Eric Valent, who started for a slumping Floyd, hit his 11th home run in the fifth to make it 2-0 against Ismael Valdez (12-8).
With the area recovering from Hurricane Frances and bracing for Hurricane Ivan, announced attendance was 13,102, but the actual crowd on a sunny, 87-degree afternoon numbered perhaps 4,000.
Following their first defeat since Aug. 26, the Marlins headed to Wrigley Field for a crucial four-game series. Florida and the Chicago Cubs are among five teams in a tight wild-card race.
“We’ve got to win,” Marlins right-hander Josh Beckett said. “It doesn’t matter how we do it. If the wind’s blowing out, we need to win 10-9. If it’s blowing in, we need to win 1-0.”
The Cubs and Marlins will meet for the first time since Florida won last year’s NL championship series at Wrigley Field.
“Those fans will probably be intense,” Pierre said. “We’ll probably have 30,000 or 40,000 fans screaming at us and remembering what we did to them last year.”
The Mets were still in the wild-card chase just two weeks ago, but now they’re playing the role of spoiler. New York took a lead for the first time in 60 innings when Mike Cameron doubled in the second and scored on a single by Jason Phillips.
“I don’t remember the last time we had the lead,” Howe said. “Was it 1959? That’s what it seems like.”
Trailing 2-0, Florida had runners at the corners with one out in the sixth. After Paul Lo Duca tapped out, Miguel Cabrera’s sharp grounder deflected off Benson’s glove to shortstop Delgado, whose wide throw to first was snagged by a diving Todd Zeile for the out to end the threat.
“About time it caromed to somebody, instead of away from somebody,” Howe said.
Florida had runners at first and third with none out in the seventh, but Fortunato retired the next three batters.
“It was one of those days,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “Things just didn’t click. You can’t expect to do it every night. You’ve got your streak over. Start a new one.”
In three starts against New York this year, Valdez is 1-2 with an ERA of 6.46. … Zeile went 0-for-3 on his 39th birthday. … The Mets may not be playing well lately, but they’re playing fast. The time of the three games in Miami was 2:34, 2:33 and 2:34.