After running out of steam in his first start on May 5 against Philadelphia and allowing four homers his last time out at Chicago's Wrigley Field, Benson (1-1, 4.91) left no doubts about his endurance on Monday.
He struck out eight and walked two in the effort, aggressively challenging hitters after the Mets' bats came out swinging to give Benson a 4-1 lead after two innings.
"I felt good," Benson said. "I knew I needed to get deeper into the ballgame. The more or longer I get out there, the easier it seems."
Cliff Floyd continued to blast his way toward an early contention for the league MVP award, homering in the first inning off Cincinnati starter Paul Wilson. Four New York starters notched two-hit evenings: Jose Reyes (who tripled leading off the game), Mike Piazza, David Wright and Kaz Matsui.
"I'm happy we came out with some urgency tonight," said Floyd, who is hitting .320. "It definitely started us in the right direction and turned this team where I think we can go."
Mets manager Willie Randolph spoke earlier in the week about needing a little payback from the Reds, who swept the Mets in Cincinnati during the season's opening series en route to an 0-5 hole. With one win under their belts, the Mets are on their way.
"Everyone needed to get a little redemption to get things back where they should be," Benson said.
ROTATING ROTATION: With Kaz Ishii primed to be activated from the disabled list for Tuesday's start, the Mets' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Yankees is still up in the air.
Randolph said that Victor Zambrano will be available to pitch in long relief if Ishii struggles on Tuesday – similar to the setup the club used with Aaron Heilman in Kris Benson's first start off the disabled list. If Zambrano is used on Tuesday, he would likely pitch Sunday against the Yankees; if the righthander does not throw, he would be in line to pitch Saturday afternoon.
That still leaves unsettled what exactly the Mets are planning to do with Heilman. The righthander is no longer scheduled to make starts, although Randolph said he believes Heilman "deserves" to be in the starting rotation.
"I want to see guys win," Randolph said. "If you pitch well, you get the ball."
ROSTER MOVES: Catcher Ramon Castro was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday's contest with a strained right quadriceps. To take Castro's place on the roster, the club purchased the contract of 35-year-old catcher Mike DiFelice from Triple-A Norfolk.
DiFelice signed a minor league contract with the Mets near the end of spring training and was hitting .276 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in 28 games for the Tides. He was in uniform Monday, wearing No. 33.
The Mets made more moves after Monday's game. Outfielder Victor Diaz was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room on the 25-man roster for left-hander Kaz Ishii; in a corresponding roster move with the promotion of DiFelice, righthander Bob Keppel – who was 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA in five starts at Norfolk – was designated for assignment.
BUSTING OUT: Randolph said that Mike Piazza hasn't necessarily been slumping – it's just that his hits haven't been finding open real estate as of late.
Piazza was in an 0-for-18 skid after making outs in his first two trips Monday against Cincinnati, but that all came to and end when Piazza doubled in the sixth and singled in the seventh.
"Mike's hit balls on the screws," Randolph said. "He's really hit the ball all year. You can tell when a guy's slumping and when a guy's got tough luck."
Perhaps, but not by the statistics ledger. Piazza is hitting .216.
Ishii pitched well in Florida State League action last week, holding the Fort Myers Miracle hitless over four innings, but it remains to be seen if he'll dominate major league hitters in the same fashion. First pitch is 7:10 p.m.