ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a leadoff homer and later connected for a two-run shot as the New York Mets completed a three-game sweep by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6 on Thursday.
Jason Bay also homered and Lucas Duda drove in three runs for the Mets, who had been swept in a three-game series by the New York Yankees last weekend.
The Mets outscored Tampa Bay 29-9 in this series.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 solo home run in the second.
Davis added a run-scoring single in the ninth, giving him seven RBIs over his last four games.
NOTES: 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 quadricpes) 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.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.