Kris Krossed

If Kris Benson believed he was joining a legitimate playoff contender, he may have been shocked by a rude awakening Saturday. <P> Facing the Atlanta Braves for the third straight start, the division leaders had Benson's number. The Mets' new right-hander allowed seven runs in five innings, his shortest outing of the year and one of his most ineffective, as the Mets were blanked, 8-0.

With the loss, the Mets fell eight games behind the Braves and have scored just one run and notched 12 hits in the first two games of this series.

The Mets will try to avoid the sweep Sunday behind Tom Glavine, but at 49-54, the Mets are just one half game closer to first place than they are to last place in the National League East.

Also of concern is that the Mets are, in fact, no better than the team that Benson was in such a rush to leave. The Pittsburgh Pirates have also posted 49 wins to go along with their 53 losses this season, but nobody is mistaking the Bucs for legitimate playoff contenders.

So, too, it will soon be for the Mets. New York has not won a series since sweeping a three-game set from the New York Yankees in early July, begging the question why the Mets' brain trust thought it so excruciatingly vital to snag Benson for an improbable late-season push -- so much so that they were willing to give up not just Ty Wigginton, who was expendable after David Wright's promotion, but also top prospects Matt Peterson and Justin Huber.

The Mets are already talking about opening in-season contract negotiations to keep Benson in New York past this season, but if the Mets really coveted Benson so badly, they could have simply signed him over the offseason without flushing prospects down the drain.

Benson publicly stated that he was hoping to join the Mets – the star aspirations of his wife, Anna, and her tell-all Web site (http://www.annabenson.net) had plenty to do with that – so there's little reason to believe the 29-year-old hurler would have cooled his Big Apple urges come winter.

Mets Notes

  • The Mets were mostly quiet leading up to Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline, only managing to ship Scott Erickson to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later.

    The Mets tried in vain to deal pitcher Jae Seo, catcher-first baseman Jason Phillips and outfielder Shane Spencer, but were unable to move any of the three. Seo will be sent to Triple-A Norfolk to work on adding a third pitch to his arsenal, while Spencer was designated for assignment. The Mets have 10 days to trade or release him.

    Duquette still hopes to add another relief pitcher or bolster the bench before the Aug. 31 waivers trade deadline, according to reports.

  • Mike Piazza was hit on his right hand by a foul ball in the seventh inning and left the game, although he reported that he was fine. Kaz Matsui bruised his right ankle in the sixth inning but is also OK.

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