June 14, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) hits a 2 run home run in the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
No amount of crafty defensive shifting can stop a team when it plays home run derby, as the Mets did this afternoon. Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off the game with a home run and added a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Jason Bay chipped in a solo home run in the second inning, notching his first extra-base hit since coming back from injury. Lucas Duda's two-run double in the fourth inning gave the Mets a cushiony 8-4 lead and knocked Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson out of the game.
All those runs came in handy because Johan Santana didn't have his best stuff. He lasted just five-plus innings, allowing four runs on six hits. He struck out six and walked four. Santana departed with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth. Jon Rauch entered and gave Mets fans a reason to fistpump rather than facepalm, as he worked out of the inning without allowing any runs to score. He picked up two strikeouts in the process. Tweet that man something pleasant.
Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak each pitched a scoreless inning to follow Rauch. Miguel Batista stunk up the Trop in the ninth, giving up two runs on two hits while recording one out. Frank Francisco came on and allowed one inherited runner to score on a Carlos Pena fielder's choice which saw Desmond Jennings beat Omar Quintanilla to the second base bag on an attempted force play. However, Frank Frank closed the gate, walking Hideki Matsui in between strikeouts of B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist.
We knew it was over when...
Rauch emerged from the sixth inning pickle unscathed, preserving an 8-4 lead.