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Ventura hits 17th career grand slam

NEW YORK (AP) -- Robin Ventura circled the bases one more time,
passing Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in the record book and pulling
alongside Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx with his 17th grand slam.

"It's nice to even be mentioned in any category whatsoever with
those guys," Ventura said modestly.

On a muggy Sunday afternoon that saw Ventura draw more cheers
than the Mets, he led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 10-2 victory
over sinking New York that maintained their five-game lead in the
NL West.

At 37 and a role player these days, Ventura remains as
unassuming as ever. Even though he's had just 19 starts and 117
at-bats, he's been a key for the Dodgers, seeking their first
playoff berth since 1996.

He had tiebreaking, pinch RBI single in the ninth inning of a
5-4 win over San Diego on April 6, a pinch two-run homer for a 7-6
win at Arizona on July 17 and a pinch 12th-inning homer for a 2-1
victory at San Diego on Aug. 1.

"To have a player of this guy's magnitude and have other
players see how he allows himself to be managed, how he'll do
whatever you ask him to do, you can't put a price tag on that,"
Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "Those type of people are
invaluable to a successful club."

Ventura, a .342 hitter (63-for-184) with the bases loaded with
209 RBI, came up with Los Angeles ahead 4-1 in the fifth inning.
He fouled a pitch to deep right before sending a 340-foot drive
down the right-field line that was less than a foot fair and a
couple of inches above the 8-foot fence.

It was his third homer in 20 at-bats against Kris Benson (10-11)
and gave Ventura the 1,000th run scored of his career. Mets fans,
who booed their team for a pair of errors that led to three
unearned runs, cheered Ventura, who played for the Mets from
1999-01.

"He hit a fastball in," Benson said. "That's where I wanted
to throw it. But that's where, I guess, he was looking to hit it."

Ventura, the active leader in grand slams, helped the Mets win
Game 5 of the 1999 NL championship series with a grand slam-single
at Shea Stadium. With the bases loaded in the 15th inning, he hit
the ball over the right-center fence against Atlanta's Kevin
McGlinchy. Ventura was mobbed by his teammates near second base and
was credited only with a single because he and Todd Pratt, who was
on first, never finished circling the bases.

Ventura, who has just four homers this season, is tied for
fourth on the grand slam list, trailing only Lou Gehrig (23), Eddie
Murray (19) and Willie McCovey (18). He's batting .222, 45 points
below his career average entering the season, and realizes how hard
it is to keep a stroke when you don't play every day.

"Most of what you see is the batting-practice pitcher," he
said.

Kazuhisa Ishii (13-6) won his second straight start after going
0-1 during a five-start span. He allowed one run and four hits in
six innings, leaving after 70 pitches because of a stiff back.
Elmer Dessens pitched a hitless seventh and Scott Stewart finished
in his Dodgers debut, allowing rookie Jeff Keppinger's second homer
in two days in the ninth.

Benson dropped to 2-3 since the Mets acquired him from
Pittsburgh on July 30, tying his season high by allowing eight runs
in four-plus innings. Three of the runs were unearned because of
his error and one by left fielder Cliff Floyd.

Benson, who has thrown 167 1-3 innings, considers this a rehab
year following three seasons shortened by injuries.

"It's been four years since I've pitched this many innings,"
he said. "My shoulder is tired."

Cesar Izturis matched his season high with four hits, including
a triple, as Los Angeles sent the Mets to their seventh loss in
eight games. Olmedo Saenz hit a ninth-inning solo homer off John
Franco that bounced off a speaker behind the fence in left-center --
it was first ruled a double, but umpires correctly reversed the
call.

Adrian Beltre's run-scoring double in the first -- his 98th RBI --
put the Dodgers ahead, but Richard Hidalgo's 22nd homer tied it in
the second.

Then in the fourth, Floyd fought the sun and let Ventura's fly
bounce off his glove for an error. Brent Mayne hit a go-ahead
sacrifice fly, Ishii singled up the middle and Ventura, who held at
third, came around when center fielder Gerald Williams' throw home
skipped off Benson's leg for the Mets' NL-high 116th error. Izturis
followed with an RBI single.

"I didn't want to get hit in the face," Floyd said.

Game notes
CF Mike Cameron, originally in the Mets' lineup, was
removed because he didn't feel well. ... Dodgers RHP Brad Penny
(strained right biceps) made 50 throws from 115 feet on flat
ground. ... The Mets plan to activate C-1B Mike Piazza on Monday.
... Izturis has 49 multihit games.