Looper gives up four straight hits in ninth

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mets fans were on their feet, actually rooting
for another meltdown by Armando Benitez instead of dreading one.

Not this time.

Fastball, outside corner, right at the knees. Strike three,
Cliff Floyd.

"I don't care what he did here, he's a new man," Floyd said.
"He's strong-minded -- or at least he's showing it this year. Give
him credit."

Pinch-hitter Lenny Harris came through with a go-ahead single in
the ninth inning, Benitez preserved the lead and the Florida
Marlins rallied past New York 6-5 Monday night.

Miguel Cabrera tied it with an RBI single off closer Braden
, who gave up four straight hits in the ninth, spoiling Scott
Erickson's bid for his first major league win in nearly two years.

Shane Spencer hit a three-run homer for the Mets, who built a
5-2 lead for Erickson in his first big league appearance since Aug.
31, 2002, with Baltimore.

But Cabrera hit a two-run single off Orber Moreno in the
seventh, and the Marlins jumped on Looper (2-2), their ex-teammate,
two innings later.

"Scotty threw a great game and deserved to get the win. I just
didn't get the job done," Looper said.

Luis Castillo and Mike Lowell opened the ninth with ground
singles, and Cabrera's single made it 5-5. Gold Glove center
fielder Mike Cameron overran the ball for an error, allowing
pinch-runner Abraham Nunez to reach third. He scored on a single to
right by Harris, a former Met who holds the major league record
with 186 career pinch-hits.

It was Looper's third blown save in 22 chances.

"You always want to do well here," Harris said. "That's what
Looper is finding out now. If you don't do good here, they let you
know, the fans in New York -- and you hear them."

Benitez, vilified for a string of failures under pressure with
the Mets, entered to a chorus of boos in the bottom of the ninth.
But he got three outs for his 31st save in 34 chances, striking out
pinch-hitter Floyd with a runner on to end it, then pounding his
chest on the mound.

"I played here for five years, to me it's just another game,"
Benitez said.

Josias Manzanillo (2-2) worked a scoreless inning for the win.

Leadoff hitter Jose Reyes sparked New York's offense with three
hits, two stolen bases and three runs. The Mets finally solved
Dontrelle Willis, who entered 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA in five career
starts against them.

"It could only go for so long," Willis said. "They had to get
some sooner or later."

Willis was outpitched by the 36-year-old Erickson, making his
first major league appearance since Aug. 31, 2002, with Baltimore.

Sidelined by arm injuries in 2001 and 2003, Erickson was
scheduled to make his first career NL start for the Mets on April 8
in Atlanta, but strained his left hamstring while warming up in the
bullpen. Erickson pitched in the minors while rehabilitating his
injury and excelled in his last three starts for Triple-A Norfolk.

Back in the big leagues, his fastball was up around 90 mph and
he got good dip on his trademark sinker. Pitching on eight days'
rest since his last outing at Norfolk, Erickson allowed only two
runs -- one earned -- and eight hits in six innings. But he was
denied his first major league win since Aug. 7, 2002, with the
Orioles against Minnesota.

"Same stuff I threw my whole career. I threw in a few
curveballs, which they probably weren't expecting," Erickson said.
"It was pretty much all business tonight, emotions aside. I can
still get groundballs, which is what I've always done. Even though
I'm not throwing as hard as I used to, the movement was still

Florida snapped a three-game skid with only its fifth victory in
15 games. The Marlins won for the fourth time this season when
trailing after eight innings.

"This was a big boost for us. We haven't done this in a
month," manager Jack McKeon said. "It was huge psychologically.
We got a break or two along the way, but we finally cashed in."

Spencer's homer in the first gave New York a 3-0 lead. Spencer
played left field and batted cleanup so Floyd could rest his stiff
right hamstring. That gave the Mets an entirely right-handed lineup
against Willis, including two switch-hitters.

Left-handers came in batting just .220 against Willis,
right-handers .293

Reyes doubled leading off the third and scored on Mike Piazza's

The Marlins cut it to 4-2 in the fifth on Lowell's RBI single
and a throwing error by Spencer.

Reyes created another run in the bottom half when he doubled
with two outs, stole third and scored on a passed ball by rookie
Josh Willingham as Kaz Matsui struck out.

Game notes
The Marlins improved to 8-3 against the Mets this season,
winning for the 14th time in the last 18 meetings. ... Four of
Reyes' five stolen bases have come against Florida. ... The Mets
bolstered their bullpen before the game, trading outfielder Karim
Garcia to Baltimore for reliever Mike DeJean.