Game Recap: Nieuwenhuis’ Two Homers Lift Mets to Sweep of Rays

By Matt Musico

A night after R.A. Dickey’s one-hitter against the Rays, Johan Santana was taking the mound at the Trop to help the Mets finish their road trip on a high note with a sweep of Tampa Bay. It was supposed to be another premier pitching matchup, with Joe Maddon running out Jeremy Hellickson to the mound, but it ended up being a high scoring game, especially with an early exit by the Rays’ starter.

Mets Offensive Highlights:

New York continued their offensive outburst by scoring in each of the first four innings of this afternoon’s game. Kirk Nieuwenhuis kicked things off with a leadoff homer in the top of the first. After a quiet bottom of the inning, Jason Bay slugged a homer to left field himself, his first since coming back off the disabled list. Jordany Valdespin and David Wright both reached base with one out in the third as the Mets battled back with a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda and Ike Davis RBI single. In the fourth, Omar Quintanillasingled in front of Nieuwenhuis’ second homer of the game. Valdespin was hit by a pitch and Wright walked, and Duda made Tampa Bay pay with a two-run double. The Mets added an insurance run in the 9th as Wright singled to lead off the inning, followed by another RBI single from Ike Davis.

It was another double-digit hit attack for the Mets, as David Wright, Ike Davis, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis all recorded multiple hit games.

Rays Offensive Highlights:

Hideki Matsui singled to center to lead off the bottom of the second, followed by a walk to Ben Zobrist. Matt Joyce continued his great year with a two run double to tie the game for the time being. After back-to-back strikeouts by Santana, Elliot Johnson singled to center to drive Joyce in and give the Rays a one-run lead for a moment. In the bottom of the third, B.J. Upton walked and stole second base, allowing him to score easily on a double by Zobrist. Tampa tried their best to come back in the 9th off Miguel Batista, loading the bases and putting some runs across the plate. Despite an RBI single from Desmond Jennings and RBI fielder’s choice from Carlos Pena, Frank Francisco shut the door for the Mets.

Pitching Highlights:

Neither starting pitcher threw very well this afternoon, but Johan Santana did outlast Hellickson and battled through some jams when he had to. Hellickson threw 90+ pitches in his 3.2 innings pitched, giving up 9 hits, 8 earned runs, 1 walk, no strikeouts, and surrendering 3 home runs. Cesar Ramos did a good job of stabilizing the bullpen after the short outing, throwing 2.1 innings of hitless baseball, walking 2 and striking out 2.

Johan struggled with his location again, much like how he did at Yankee Stadium, but wasn’t bit by the home run bug. Santana went 5+ innings, gave up 6 hits, 4 runs, struck out 6, but walked 4. He left with a bases loaded, nobody out jam, but Jon Rauch struck out two and forced a groundout to bail him out and strand those three runners. Batista did all he could to make things interesting in the 9th, but Frank Francisco stranded three runners for the save and the 9-6 win.

Worth Noting:

The win gives the Mets a sweep of the Rays, putting New York at 35-29 with their third straight victory, pulling them within 4.5 games of the Nationals.

Jason Bay got into the hit column last night, then joined Nieuwenhuis in today’s power surge with his first home run since the end of April. Ike Davis put together his third straight multiple hit game, raising his average to the highest it’s been in weeks, now sitting at .188.

Probable Pitchers Friday:

The Mets head back to Citi Field for a short home stand. Their first series is against the Cincinnati Reds, as Dillon Gee (4-4, 4.42 ERA) takes on Bronson Arroyo (2-4, 3.79 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm.