Benitez Slams Door Shut, Mets Win 6-3

With trade rumors abounding around Shea Stadium, the subject of most of those whispers, Armando Benitez, definitely displayed his abilities in a 6-3 win over the Florida Marlins on Wednesday evening in New York. Steve Trachsel, following a shaky start, pitched a strong game and received credit for the win, improving to 6-5 on the season.

With the Mets leading by the score of 6-3 in the top of the eighth inning, New York set-up man David Weathers loaded the bases with Marlins with none out. Manager Art Howe decided to roll the dice and bring in Benitez for a rare six-out save. And Armando responded magnificently. He prevented any of the inherited base runners from scoring and then put down the Fish in the ninth, registering his 18th save of the season. He began the proceedings by fanning the first two batters to face him, completely defusing the Florida rally.

The Marlins started the scoring in the first. Luis Castillo singled with one out and stole second. After Ivan Rodriguez fouled out, superstar third baseman Mike Lowell hammered his 24th homerun of the campaign, giving Florida the early 2-0 lead.

The Mets countered very quickly, and tied the score in the 2nd inning. Jason Phillips and Vance Wilson both singled off Florida starter Mark Redman (5-3). Both runners advanced on a Redman wild pitch. Tsuyoshi Shinjo grounded out, but rookie sensation Jose Reyes singled in Phillips with the first New York run, and Wilson took third on the play. Steve Trachsel then helped his own cause when he hit a scoring fly ball to right and tied the game at 2-2.

Trachsel just as rapidly surrendered the lead run, however, when Ivan Rodriguez homered in the third, putting Florida up once again by a score of 3-2. But Jeromy Burnitz squared things in the bottom of the inning, when he hit his 12th homerun of the season. The Mets were once again even.

Both starters settled down until the bottom of the 6th, when the Mets started to make noise. Burnitz and Phillips opened the frame with singles. Vance Wilson moved them both up a base with a sacrifice bunt. Then came the critical play of the game. The Marlins elected to walk the weak-hitting Shinjo to load the bases, giving Redman the opportunity of facing the rookie Reyes, with a batting average well below the Mendoza Line. But Reyes was up to the challenge, and he singled in both Burnitz and Phillips, giving New York a 5-3 lead. A Vance Wilson sacrifice fly in the 7th gave the Mets an insurance run.

Trachsel in recording the victory, went seven innings, allowing the three runs on eight hits. He also walked two and fanned five. It was his first win at Shea this season in seven starts overall.

The game on Thursday will be one for the ages. Florida rookie extraordinaire Dontrelle Willis (7-1, 2.38 ERA) will oppose highly touted Mets rookie Aaron Heilman, who will be making his big league debut. Fans might very well be witnessing the respective aces of these pitching staffs for years to come in this game.

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