Mets complete sweep of Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- The series that couldn't end soon enough for the Rays dragged on for another 3 1/2 hours Thursday afternoon.
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson struggled miserably for the second start in a row, surrendering eight runs in less than four innings in the New York Mets' 9-6 triumph before 21,947 at Tropicana Field.
The game ended with Mets closer Frank Francisco striking out Ben Zobrist looking with the bases loaded in the ninth.
Tampa Bay (35-28), which entered this series on a four-game win streak sparked by an offensive resurgence, dropped all three games to the Mets by a combined score of 29-9.
Mets leadoff hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis had two homers for the Mets, including a two-out, two-run blast to left field off Hellickson (4-3) in a four-run fourth.
Six days after walking seven in 4 1/3 innings at Miami, Hellickson languished again. Nieuwenhuis took his second pitch of the game over the right field wall, and Jason Bay added a solo blast to left the next inning.
In 3 2/3 innings, Hellickson scattered nine hits -- three of them homers -- with one walk and no strikeouts. All eight of his runs were earned.
His offense wasn't much sharper. A day after getting one-hit by 37-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the Rays managed eight hits, but twice left three base runners stranded.
The first instance came in the sixth off starter Johan Santana, who exited at that point with an 8-4 lead. Six-foot-11 reliever Jon Rauch struck out Sean Rodriguez swinging and Jose Lobaton looking before forcing Elliot Johnson into an inning-ending grounder to third.
Joey Knight, Times staff writer