ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon is not about to panic after a tough interleague series.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a leadoff homer and later connected for a two-run shot, and the New York Mets completed a three-game sweep by beating the Rays 9-6 on Thursday.
``They just beat us up for three days ... that happens,' Maddon said. ``It's happened here before. We've been able to recover from that in the past and I anticipate we'll be able to do it again.'
The Rays were coming off a four-game winning streak, including three straight wins at Miami in which they outscored the Marlins 22-7.
``That's why you can't get too full of yourself when things are going well and you can't get too down on yourself when they're not,' Maddon said. ``Circumstances do change rather quickly. It was just a tough three days for us. I don't think the Mets could have played any better for the last three days and I have a lot of respect for that. Anytime we gave them an opening they took advantage of it.'
Tampa Bay has lost 13 of its last 19 games at home.
Jason Bay also homered and Lucas Duda drove in three runs for the Mets, who were 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.
``I think we caught this team on fire,' Zobrist said. ``I think it was just bad timing.'
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 reigning 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.
``They didn't miss too many mistakes,' Hellickson said. ``I left some changeups up and they just didn't miss bad pitches. I just made too many mistakes.'
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.
``Coming off the road trip 4-2, going to Miami and sweeping the Marlins and then coming home, definitely you don't expect to get swept at home,' Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said. ``They came in swinging the bats pretty well against our pitching staff. It just didn't happen for us in this series.'
NOTES: Tampa Bay placed DH Luke Scott on the 15-day DL with back stiffness. The team plans to announce a corresponding move on Friday. ... Zobrist played after missing two games due to a sore hand and flulike symptoms. ... Rays third base coach Tom Foley missed the game because of a personal matter. He is expected back on Friday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved