WHAT IT MEANS: Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a two-homer game for the first time in his career and the Mets rebounded from their Bronx tailspin by sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays with a 9-6 win Thursday afternoon.
New York Mets
Nieuwenhuis became the first Met to open a first inning with a homer this season.
His second long ball broke a 4-4 tie in the fourth. Lucas Duda followed with a two-run double that inning to give the Mets a four-run lead and chase Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson.
The Mets last produced a sweep in an AL ballpark two seasons ago, when they ran the table in consecutive interleague series at Baltimore and Cleveland.
The three-run margin of victory means the Mets now have finally scored more runs (291) than they have allowed (290) this season.
Tampa Bay produced two ninth-inning runs against Miguel Batista and Frank Francisco and brought the winning run to the plate. Francisco struck out Ben Zobrist with the bases loaded to end it.
STANDING TALL: Jon Rauch had a big pick-me-up for Johan Santana.
New York Mets
With the Mets leading 8-4 in the sixth, Rauch inherited the bases loaded and none out from Santana. Rauch struck out Sean Rodriguez and Jose Lobaton, then retired Elliot Johnson on a groundout as the Rays squandered the comeback opportunity.
Demoted from late-inning work after serving up the game-ending homer to Russell Martin in the series finale at Yankee Stadium, Rauch now has stranded nine of 13 runners this season.
Santana’s final line: 5+ IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K.
Rauch on Tuesday also entered in the sixth inning. That night against the Rays, he coaxed an inning-ending foul pop from Desmond Jennings.
BAY WATCH: Jason Bay, 2-for-25 since returning from the DL, nonetheless delivered his first homer since April 20. The second-inning solo shot staked the Mets to a 2-0 lead.
IKE! Ike Davis continues to work himself out of an offensive rut. Davis delivered an RBI single in the third that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead at the time. He then walked in his next plate appearance. He also drove in David Wright (three runs scored) in the ninth. Davis went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .188.
Davis hit .346 (9-for-26) on the three-city trip, which included the road series in the Bronx. That took him off the hot seat for potentially losing his first-base job with the Mets returning to NL play.
WHAT’S NEXT: Dillon Gee (4-4, 4.42 ERA) opposes right-hander Bronson Arroyo (2-4, 3.79) in Friday’s series opener against the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds. REO Speedwagon performs a postgame concert. The Mets’ top two picks, Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini and Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki, will take batting practice pregame. Cecchini is ticketed for Kingsport, while Plawecki is expected to play for Brooklyn.