Benson took a one-hit shutout into the ninth inning and David Wright tied career highs with four hits and six RBIs—including a three-run homer—as the New York Mets routed San Diego 9-1 Wednesday night.
A night after Pedro Martinez had his worst start of the year in an 8-3 loss to the Padres, Benson (8-4) shut down the NL West leaders, who had their five-game winning streak snapped. The right-hander allowed one run and three hits in 8 1-3 innings, striking out six and walking one. He retired the side in order six times.
“That’s the best I’ve felt this year,” said Benson, who won for the second time in nine starts. “I’ve been waiting for it all season long because I’ve been thinking to myself, ‘I haven’t quite thrown my best game this year.’ Hopefully I’ll be able to build on this one and have an even better one.”
Acting on a tip from Martinez, Benson kept his head more in line with the catcher, which helped keep his pitches hidden longer. In his previous two starts, when he failed to go longer than 5 1-3 innings, he was tilting his head to the left, allowing batters an earlier peek at the ball.
“I’ve got to give props to Pedro. He said I was pulling my head out,” Benson said. “I knew I was, but to hear it from somebody else kind of drives it a little bit harder.”
Benson watched videotapes from when he was pitching well last season, compared them to his last two starts “and realized that’s exactly what I was doing. Just that minor change, I think, you could tell by the swings that they were taking,” he said. “They weren’t taking all that great of swings. Obviously that’s an adjustment I’ve got to pay close attention to.”
Miguel Olivo, the Padres’ No. 8 hitter, doubled with one out in the third. David Ross led off the ninth with a single and Joe Randa doubled one out later, chasing Benson. Danny Graves allowed an RBI single to Mark Sweeney before finishing the four-hitter.
Benson “was throwing everything for strikes,” Padres leadoff batter Dave Roberts said. “He got ahead of every single hitter. Excellent stuff. He was completely dominant. Anytime he can get a lead like that, he can kind of pick us apart.”
The Mets won for the fourth time in five games. The loss was only the second in eight games for San Diego, which fell to 57-56 but leads Arizona by four games.
Wright drove a 1-0 pitch from Brian Lawrence into the left-field seats with two outs in the fourth to give the Mets an 8-0 lead and chase the right-hander. It was Wright’s 17th homer this season.
Wright also hit an RBI single in the two-run first and a two-run double in the three-run third. He singled in the ninth and scored his third run of the night, on Mike Cameron’s single.
Carlos Beltran scored three times, including in the first on the back end of a double steal. Beltran broke for home when Olivo threw a one-hopper to second baseman Mark Loretta as Wright stole second. Beltran also scored on Wright’s double in the third and was on board for the third baseman’s homer, having doubled with two outs. Cliff Floyd was intentionally walked to bring up Wright.
Wright said he felt “nice and relaxed all night,” and was motivated when Floyd was intentionally walked in front of him.
“You’ve got to take it personal,” Wright said. “You’ve got to make it a challenge and elevate your standards.”
Jose Offerman drove in the Mets’ other run, on a two-out single in the third.
Lawrence (6-12) lost for the sixth time in seven decisions. He lasted 3 2-3 innings, allowing eight runs and eight hits, walking three and striking out two.
Wright also drove in six runs on Aug. 5, 2004, at Milwaukee, and he had four hits at San Francisco last Aug. 24. … The last Mets player to steal home was Roger Cedeno on June 29, 2002, at Yankee Stadium.