“I was surprised that we had that type of success against him because he’s been tough,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “He didn’t seem to have the answer today.”
Light-hitting Cristian Guzman doubled twice and drove in two runs for the Nationals, who avoided a three-game sweep and kept pace in the tight NL wild-card race.
Working on three days’ rest for the first time this year, Esteban Loaiza (8-9) was handed a 6-0 lead before he threw a pitch.
“It’s nice, but there’s still a lot of game left,” Loaiza said. “All I had on my mind was putting up zeros.”
Washington got seven straight hits with two outs in the first inning, chasing Benson (9-5) from the shortest outing of his seven-year career.
“He just couldn’t stop the avalanche,” New York manager Willie Randolph said.
Mike Jacobs homered in his first major league at-bat, becoming the fourth Mets player to accomplish the feat. But his three-run shot as a pinch-hitter in the fifth wasn’t nearly enough to pull New York out of a huge hole, and the Mets lost for only the fifth time in 19 home games.
Church led off the game with a double, moved up on a groundout and scored on Nick Johnson’s sacrifice fly.
Then Benson really got in trouble—and he never escaped.
“Everybody had a good game plan and stuck with it and was able to hit the mistakes,” Wilson said. “We were able to get a few runs early and it helped us relax.”
Loaiza chopped an RBI single through the middle, making it 6-0. Church followed with a single to knock out Benson, who was booed as he walked off the mound after only 37 pitches.
“You just hope that they would hit the ball somewhere at somebody, and unfortunately they didn’t. They found a hole every single time they put the bats on the ball,” he said. “When I look back on it, it’s definitely disappointing. I’ve made worse pitches and I’ve felt worse in games. There’s nothing I can do now.”
It was the shortest start by a Mets pitcher since Bruce Chen got only one out on Sept. 8, 2001, at Florida. The Mets rallied to win that game, 9-7.
Benson won his previous two starts, allowing only three runs in 15 1-3 innings.
Church drew a bases-loaded walk from Juan Padilla in the fifth.
Jacobs drove an 0-1 pitch from Loaiza into the right-field bullpen in the bottom half, cutting New York’s deficit to 7-3 and earning the rookie a curtain call from the crowd of 42,412.
“It’s definitely an exciting day for me,” Jacobs said. “It’s a great feeling. I can’t put it into words.”
The left-handed hitting Jacobs was recalled last Wednesday from Double-A Binghamton, where he was hitting .321 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. He was called up to provide insurance behind the plate because Mike Piazza is injured.
Loaiza allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out eight and improved to 2-4 in his last seven starts.
“It was nervous time,” Robinson said. “Two errors in the ninth, I know we’re all right because Cordero is on the mound.”
After the game, the Mets optioned LHP Dae-Sung Koo to Triple-A Norfolk. They will make a corresponding roster move before Monday night’s game in Arizona. … The Mets play 17 of their next 20 games on the road. … Guzman and Loaiza came in batting below .200. … The Nationals scored 14 runs in a five-inning span, including Saturday night—when they rallied from an 8-0 deficit to tie the game only to lose 9-8 in 10 innings. … New York placed Piazza on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to last Wednesday, with a broken bone in his left hand. To replace him on the roster, the Mets purchased C Mike DiFelice’s contract from Norfolk. … The previous Mets player to hit a home run in his first big league at-bat was Kaz Matsui on April 6, 2004, in Atlanta. The others to do it were Benny Ayala in 1974 and Mike Fitzgerald in 1983. … Wilson slipped between first and second on his first-inning double, so the grounds crew came out to dry the dirt. “The infield was soaking wet,” Wilson said.