NEW YORK (AP) – Ryan Church doubled and singled in a six-run first inning, and the Washington Nationals battered Kris Benson in a 7-4 victory Sunday over the New York Mets.

Light-hitting Cristian Guzman doubled twice and drove in two runs for the Nationals, who avoided a three-game sweep and kept pace in the tight NL wild-card race.

Esteban Loaiza (8-9) was handed a 6-0 lead before he threw a pitch.

Washington got seven straight hits with two outs in the first inning, sending Benson (9-5) to an early shower. He managed only two outs, the shortest outing of his seven-year career.

Mike Jacobs homered in his first major league at-bat, becoming the fourth Mets player to accomplish the feat. But his three-run shot as a pinch-hitter in the fifth wasn’t nearly enough to pull New York out of a huge hole, and the Mets lost for only fifth time in 19 home games.

Church led off the game with a double, moved up on a groundout and scored on Nick Johnson’s sacrifice fly.

Then Benson really got in trouble – and he never escaped.

Jose Guillen doubled and scored on Preston Wilson’s double. Vinny Castilla had an RBI single, Gary Bennett singled and both scored on Guzman’s double to right-center.

Loaiza chopped an RBI single through the middle, making it 6-0. Church followed with a single to chase Benson, who was booed as he walked off the mound after only 37 pitches.

It was the shortest start by a Mets pitcher since Bruce Chen got only one out on Sept. 8, 2001, at Florida. The Mets rallied to win that game, 9-7.

Benson won his previous two starts, allowing only three runs in 15 1-3 innings.

Church drew a bases-loaded walk from Juan Padilla in fifth.

Jacobs drove an 0-1 pitch from Loaiza into the right-field bullpen in the bottom half, cutting New York’s deficit to 7-3 and earning the rookie a curtain call from the crowd of 42,412.

The left-handed hitting Jacobs was recalled last Wednesday from Double-A Binghamton, where he was hitting .321 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. He was called up to provide insurance behind the plate because Mike Piazza is injured.

Loaiza allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out eight and improved to 2-4 in his last seven starts.

With the bases loaded, Joey Eischen struck out Cliff Floyd on three pitches to end the seventh.

Washington commited two errors in the ninth, allowing the Mets to score an unearned run before Chad Cordero struck out David Wright with two on to end it.

Notes: The Mets have four pinch-hit homers this year. … Guzman and Loaiza came in batting below .200. … The Nationals scored 14 runs in a five-inning span, including Saturday night – when they rallied from an 8-0 deficit to tie the game only to lose 9-8 in 10 innings. … New York placed C Mike Piazza on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to last Wednesday, with a broken bone in his left hand. To replace him on the roster, the Mets purchased C Mike DiFelice’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk. … The previous Mets player to hit a home run in his first big league at-bat was Kaz Matsui on April 6, 2004, in Atlanta. The others to do it were Benny Ayala in 1974 and Mike Fitzgerald in 1983. … Jacobs also became the 90th player overall to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Andy Phillips was the previous to do it in September 2004 for the New York Yankees. … Wilson slipped between first and second on his first-inning double, so the grounds crew came out to dry the dirt. … It was Jewish Heritage Day at Shea Stadium. … New York’s Victor Diaz was booed all afternoon as he struggled in RF.

AP-ES-08-21-05 1610EDT

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