Mets 9, Rays 6

The New York Mets have rebounded nicely after an unsuccessful

Subway Series.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a leadoff homer and later connected for a

two-run shot, and the Mets completed a three-game sweep by beating

the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6 on Thursday.

”Hopefully we can keep that momentum going,” Nieuwenhuis

said.

Jason Bay also homered and Lucas Duda drove in three runs for

the Mets, who were swept in a three-game series by the New York

Yankees last weekend.

”You’ve got to be able to forget what the last series was and

go play,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. ”Continue to grind it

out.”

The Mets outscored Tampa Bay 29-9 in this series.

”I thought it was tremendous by our guys,” Collins said. ”You

come in and face the best pitching in the American League and put

up runs like we did.”

Johan Santana (4-3) allowed four runs and six hits over

five-plus innings. Frank Francisco struck out Ben Zobrist with the

bases loaded on a 3-2 pitch to end it.

”I think we caught this team on fire,” Zobrist said.

Nieuwenhuis began the afternoon with a home run off Jeremy

Hellickson (4-3). Nieuwenhuis homered again during a four-run

fourth, helping the Mets take an 8-4 lead. It was his first career

multihomer game.

Hellickson gave up a career-high eight runs and nine hits in 3

2-3 innings. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year, 0-3 over his last

five starts, has allowed more than three earned runs in just five

of 46 career starts.

”They didn’t miss too many mistakes,” Hellickson said. ”I

left some changeups up and they just didn’t miss bad pitches. I

just made too many mistakes.”

Jon Rauch replaced Santana with the bases loaded and no outs in

the sixth and worked out of the jam by striking out Sean Rodriguez

and pinch-hitter Jose Labaton, and then getting a grounder from

Elliot Johnson.

”The bullpen deserves all the credit,” Santana said. ”They

did a great job. For all of us, you don’t want to come here and

lose games. I think this is good for everybody to get three wins in

a row, especially after losing three to the Yankees. We’re just

building up our confidence. We played pretty good.”

Santana made his second start since the left-hander held St.

Louis hitless on June 1, the first no-hitter in the Mets’ 51-year

history. He allowed six runs and seven hits – including four homers

– in a 9-1 loss to the Yankees last Friday.

”He’s behind in the count a lot, which he normally doesn’t

do,” Collins said. ”The biggest thing (Thursday), the mistakes he

made weren’t hit out of the ballpark.”

Desmond Jennings cut the Rays’ deficit to 9-5 with an RBI single

off Miguel Batista with one out in the ninth.

Francisco got the final two outs for his 16th save. After

allowing a run-scoring grounder to Carlos Pena, the Mets’ closer

fanned Zobrist.

Duda had a sacrifice fly and Ike Davis drove in run with a

single as the Mets went up 4-3 in the third. Duda also had a

two-run double that chased Hellickson in the fourth.

Tampa Bay took a 3-2 lead during the second when Matt Joyce hit

a two-run double and Johnson had an RBI single. Zobrist’s RBI

double in the third tied it at 4.

Bay, who had been 1 for 21 since returning from a rib injury,

gave New York a 2-0 advantage on a solo home run in the second.

Davis added a run-scoring single in the ninth, giving him seven

RBIs over his last four games.

”They just beat us up for three days … that happens,” Tampa

Bay manager Joe Maddon said. ”It’s happened here before. We’ve

been able to recover from that in the past and I anticipate we’ll

be able to do it again.”

NOTES: Tampa Bay placed DH Luke Scott on the 15-day DL with back

stiffness. The team plans to announce a corresponding move on

Friday … Duda has 17 RBIs in his last 14 games. … Mets INF

Ronny Cedeno (strained left calf) is set to start a rehab

assignment Friday at Triple-A Buffalo. INF Justin Turner (sprained

right ankle) was scheduled to join Buffalo on Thursday. … Zobrist

played after missing two games due to a sore hand and flulike

symptoms. … New York SS Ruben Tejada (strained right quadriceps)

has been cleared to start jogging. … Rays third base coach Tom

Foley missed the game because of a personal matter. He is expected

back on Friday.