NEW YORK -- In his first start, Kris Benson had stamina problems. In his second start, he had focus problems. So Monday night's third start was an important one for the New York Mets right-hander, slotted as the No. 3 man in their rotation.
Benson delivered, limiting Cincinnati to four hits in 7 2/3 innings in the Mets' 9-2 victory over the Reds. He struck out eight, walked two and left feeling good about what he had done.
"I stuck with my game plan, with what I've been concentrating on," Benson said. "I feel like I'm getting back in the groove. Hopefully, I can continue with good outings."
Mets manager Willie Randolph hopes so, too.
"Benson is a key for us," he said. "He's our No. 3. He came in and dominated. He had a good slider, a sinker down in the zone and good movement."
Benson (1-1), who began the season on the disabled list with a strained chest muscle, allowed just two hits after the second inning. He threw 112 pitches before Dae-Sung Koo relieved with two outs in the eighth.
He pitched 4 2/3 innings in his first start, then gave up four homers over six innings in his second start.
"The longer I pitch, the better I feel," he said. "I feel now I'm where I need to be. I feel more relaxed. Today was a big jump. I threw a lot of pitches and I had a good outing."
Benson benefited from six extra-base hits, one of them the 11th homer of the season by Cliff Floyd. New York scored four runs in the first two innings and provided a comfort zone for Benson.
"We kept scoring and that was a relief for me," he said.
Cincinnati manager Dave Miley was impressed.
"We got four hits so I guess he threw the ball pretty well," Miley said. "The way Benson was throwing, we didn't have many chances."
The Mets backed Benson with 13 hits.
Then Floyd lined a 2-2 pitch from Paul Wilson (1-5) into one of the mezzanine suites in right field, a home run estimated at 395 feet. On Friday night, he banged a pair of 400-plus foot shots off the right field scoreboard. He is tied for the NL lead in homers.
But the Mets made it 4-1 with two more in the bottom half of the inning. Doug Mientkiewicz opened with a single and raced to third on a double by David Wright. Kaz Matsui's sacrifice fly scored Mientkiewicz, and Wright came home when Benson singled to left and Dunn kicked the ball for an error.
The Reds scored again in the sixth when Ryan Freel opened with a walk and came home on a double by Felipe Lopez. After Lopez advanced to third on an infield out, Ken Griffey Jr. flied to right and Cameron cut down Lopez trying to score after the catch with a perfect throw to Piazza.
Floyd opened the Mets sixth with a walk, moved to third on a double by Piazza and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mientkiewicz. Wright's second double scored Piazza and finished Wilson, who gave up eight hits. Matsui then singled home Wright.
In the seventh, Beltran singled, raced to third on a single by Piazza and scored on an infield out. Then Piazza took third on a wild pitch and scored when LaRue threw the ball into left field.
- Floyd's first-inning home run marked the 15th straight game in which Cincinnati pitchers have surrendered a homer. The homer gave Floyd 26 RBI in the last 29 games.
- Benson retired 10 straight batters from the second through the sixth innings.