St. Petersburg, FL – Kirk Nieuwenhuis had two homers and three RBI, Lucas Duda also drove in three and the New York Mets completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 9-6 win on Thursday afternoon.
The Mets scored 29 runs in the series, bouncing back from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees over the weekend.
Jason Bay hit a solo homer and Johan Santana (4-3) went five-plus innings in his second post-no hitter start to get the win. He gave up four runs on six hits and four walks, striking out six, and came out of the game after loading the bases with no outs in the sixth.
Jon Rauch escaped the inning without allowing a run and closer Frank Francisco got out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth after the Rays had scored twice.
Jeremy Hellickson (4-3) gave up nine hits, including three homers, and eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings for Tampa Bay to remain winless in his last five starts.
"It was a tough one," Hellickson said. "The offense came out and did their job. I just gotta do a better job keeping them off the board."
The Rays were outscored 29-9 in the series. It included New York's 9-1 win on Wednesday, when R.A. Dickey allowed one hit -- an infield single to B.J. Upton which was appealed -- and set a Mets franchise record with 32 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
"You come in against the best pitching staff in the league and put up 29 runs ... I was really pleased with our offense," said Mets manager Terry Collins.
Nieuwenhuis' second homer on Thursday came during New York's two-out, four-run rally in the fourth inning. Omar Quintanilla singled and Nieuwenhuis smacked a shot to left for the first multi-homer game of his career, breaking a 4-4 tie.
Hellickson then hit Jordany Valdespin, walked David Wright and gave up a two- run double to Duda, which made it 8-4 and chased the Rays starter for Cesar Ramos.
Santana hasn't worked past the sixth since his 134-pitch no-hitter on June 1, the first in Mets history. Pitching on extended rest last Friday, he gave up four homers in five innings to the Yankees in a 9-1 Mets loss.
He was pulled in this one after giving up a single to Hideki Matsui, a double to Ben Zobrist and a walk to Matt Joyce to start the sixth. Rauch struck out Sean Rodriguez and Jose Lobaton and got Elliot Johnson on a grounder to end the inning.
"The adrenaline rush he had after the no-hitter, it takes its toll and takes time to get out of your system," Collins said of Santana.
The Mets tacked on a run in the ninth on Ike Davis' RBI single, but Miguel Batista ran into trouble in the bottom half of the inning, putting two straight hitters on with one out and giving up an RBI single to Desmond Jennings.
Francisco coaxed a grounder from Carlos Pena, but Quintanilla was late rushing to tag second base for a force out as another run scored. After Upton struck out, Matsui walked to load the bases but Zobrist struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end it, giving Francisco his 16th save.
Earlier, Nieuwenhuis knocked a second-pitch fastball from Hellickson down the line for his first career leadoff homer and Bay's one-out shot to left in the second was his first homer since coming off the disabled list on June 6.
The Rays, though, rallied for a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second. Matsui led off with a single, Zobrist walked and Joyce knocked both runners in with a double to the right field corner.
The Mets scored two in the third on Duda's sacrifice fly and Davis' RBI single before Zobrist's RBI double in the bottom of the inning tied the game at 4-4.
Hellickson is 0-3 in his last five starts...The Mets went 4-5 on a nine-game road trip. They were headed back to New York for a nine-game homestand that starts with three against the Reds this weekend...The Rays will host the Marlins in a three-game series starting Friday.