Finishing up the nine-game road trip and being the last time the Amazin’s will have to use the designated hitter (until of course the world series ;-)), the Mets hit early and often despite a bad start by Johan Santana and an iffy ninth to complete the sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 9-6.
Johan Santana was on the hill to get the sweep for New York, going toe-to-toe with 2011 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. Coming off a bruiser of an outing against the cross-town rival Yankees, Santana had another rough outing. The two-time Cy Young award winner allowed three runs in the second in the form of a Matt Joyce 2-run double and an Elliot Johnson RBI single. The Rays would tack on another run in the next frame on a double by Ben Zobrist to tie up the game at four a piece. After loading the bases, Santana would be relieved with no outs in the sixth for Jon Rauch who would get him out of the inning unscathed. Santana would finish the evening with 5+ innings pitched, allowing four earned runs on six hits and four walks while punching out six.
The Mets bats continued to dismantle one of the best pitching staffs in baseball today, scoring in each of the first four innings to force Hellickson’s ERA to rise faster than the number of Jon Rauch’s followers on Twitter.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis got the ball rolling with a solo shot in the first. Then, –one of the most unlikely sources– Jason Bay hit a jack of his own in the following frame to make it a 2-0 lead. Down 3-2, Lucas Duda hit a long fly ball to score Jordany Valdespin and tie the game up. The resurgent Ike Davis continued his turnaround, having a good at-bat before chopping one through the hole and over Carlos Pena to score David Wright and hand the Mets a 4-3 lead.
Continuing the theme of two-out hitting, the Mets had six straight batters reach base and tallied four times to put New York in the driver’s seat. Quintanilla started it off with a knock, which was followed by Kirk’s second home run of the ballgame. Then with two on, Lucas Duda hit a bases clearing double to dead center to make it an 8-4 ballgame.
From here Santana bared down to put together two hitless innings before being relieved by Rauch in the sixth. Rauch promptly struck out the first two batters to face him and got Elliot Johnson to ground out to end the threat.
Fast forward to the ninth. After Ike Davis drove home Wright to make it 9-4, Miguel Batista came on to pitch the bottom half of the innings, and when I say pitched, I use that term lightly. After getting his first man out, Batista walked two and gave up an RBI single before being taken out for Frank Francisco, who now entered in a save situation. Quintanilla tried to do too much and ended up with getting nobody out and letting a run score to make it 9-6.
After Francisco punched out BJ Upton and walked Hideki Matsui walked on the tight strikezone by Laz Diaz to load the bases with two out, Ben Zobrist –already with two doubles on the day– stepped in. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, on a 3-2 count, Francisco struck out Zobrist on a called 87-mph splitter to end the ballgame.
Hero Of The Game:
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, for his two home runs on the day that proved to be the difference in this game.
-Santana picked up his fourth win of the year to improve to 4-3. Of course the day Santana doesn’t have it, his team picks up a win for him.
-With 3 RBIs, Lucas Duda now leads the team with 40 RBIs on the season.
-Wright hit his 21st double, part of his three-hit game to boost his average to .358 on the year.
-Ike Davis is looking much better at the plate as he not only had a two hit game, but drove in another two runs and boosted his average to .188
-Everyone in the lineup had a hit today except for Daniel Murphy, who continues to struggle mightily.
The Mets go home to take on the Cincinnati Reds with Dillon Gee on the hill starting at 7:10 pm.