Benitez Adds Additional Intrigue to Marlins Series

Try to understand the Mets minds today as they enter into a weekend series with the defending World Champions and NL East leading Florida Marlins. Of course the opportunity to make a statement, to climb closer to first place, to solidify their place as contenders, are obvious. But what about the prospect of facing the reborn Armando Benitez? To do so would mean a 9th inning deficit, but the Mets wouldn't mind being the team that reminds the Dominican fireballer why they lost all faith in him.

Benitez enters the series against the Mets with 17 saves and a microscopic 0.34 ERA including a current streak of 25 consecutive scoreless innings. He's blown only one save – a stat that seemed more apt within a week's context during his Mets career. Opponents are hitting just .160 against him and he has 25 Ks in 26.2 innings. These are the statistical territories of Eric Gagne and John Smoltz. For Benitez to put up numbers like this, one would have expected him to be saving games for Erick Almonte, the illegal little leaguer, not the World Champions.

But here he comes, eager for a chance at redemption. Eager for a chance to show his former team what he and his new team are all about. It is this fact however that plays well for the Mets. What Mets fans know all too well is that Benitez handles pressure about as well as Mike Piazza does the 3-6-3 double play. No doubt should he be in a save situation against his former team, his machismo will manifest.

When Benitez is amped, and against the Mets he would approach Spinal Tap levels, he gets into trouble. He is an imposing figure from 60 feet 6 inches, and with a fastball that can touch the century mark, he should be a dominant closer. But he was notorious for major malfunctions in the biggest games. He missed his spots. Fell behind. Grooved flat fastballs. Game over.

It's not automatic, but the Mets will probably see Benitez this weekend in a save situation. They may even wish it. They will have a couple things going for them should it happen. Benitez's scoreless streak is at its breaking point. Mets closer Braden Looper had a similar streak to start the season and while impressive, it ultimately became an albatross. Art Howe was wise to use Looper in non-save situations during the streak where he could get that monkey off his back without it resulting in a loss.

Benitez's streak will end soon as well and the Mets are in a position to make it happen. A save opportunity for Benitez against the Mets would be the first time all year he would feel any New York-like pressure. He'll do his best to show himself reformed. The Mets will finally prefer to see his old form.

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