Originally posted on MetsZilla  |  Last updated 6/15/12

The New York Mets completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon, improving to 35-29 on the year:

Johan Santana started for NY, allowing four runs on six hits over five innings of work:

Santana clearly did not have his best stuff on Thursday afternoon, but his offense, and his bullpen, picked him up for a change.  “I felt better,” Santana told reporters following the game.  “It’s just that there were some innings that took forever. But I stayed with it. And I think the bullpen deserves all the credit today.”

Photo taken by Michael Baron

With the Mets leading 8-4, Johan allowed the first three batters to reach base to start the bottom of the sixth inning.  With no-outs and the bases full of Rays, Mets manager Terry Collins called upon Jon Rauch to relieve the former Cy-Young Award winner.  Rauch fanned Sean Rodriguez and needed just four pitches to dispose of Jose Lobaton to record the innings second out. Rauch — just one-out away from escaping the bases-loaded jam — followed the back-to-back strike outs by inducing Elliot Johnson to ground out to third; ending the Tampa Bay comeback rally. Following the game, Rauch spoke about finally bailing out Santana:

I’ve screwed up plenty of his games so far. It was nice to support him for a change. …I’ve told you guys before. If they want me to pitch in the sixth, eighth, ninth, whenever it is, just give me the ball and I’ll try to do my job the best I can. It’s nice to see that they still have the confidence in me to go out there and do the job in tough situations.”

CAPTAIN KIRK: Kirk Nieuwenhuis led the offensive charge on Thursday afternoon collecting his first career multi-homerun game:

Nieuwenhuis became the first Met to open a first inning with a homer this season and after Omar Quintanilla reached base with two-outs in the fourth, captain Kirk blasted his second dinger of the game to give NY a 6-4 lead.

“I didn’t really think the last one was going out,” Nieuwenhuis told reporters following the game. “But I’m glad I got the job done.”

The Mets rookie is now 6-for-his-last-13 with 5 runs scored, 2 doubles, 2 homeruns, and 3 RBI.  Heading into to Thursday’s game, the 24-year-old was was fourth among National League rookies in average.

I LIKE IKE: Ike Davis went 2-for-4 with two RBI on Thursday and has now collected a hit in each of his last five games; including three straight multi-hit contests.  Davis delivered a run scoring single in the top half of the third inning, giving NY a 4-3 lead and drove in his second run of the game in the ninth.  Ike finished the three-game set with six hits and six runs batted in over 11 at-bats and is 8-for-13 over his five-game hitting streak, lifting his season average to .188 in the process.

HEY BAY-BAY: Jason Bay snapped 0-for-18 skid on Wednesday night and in the second inning of Thursday’s contest blasted a solo shot to left to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.  Bay finished the game with one hit in five at-bats and is now 2-for-25 since returning from the disabled list.

BRING ON THE REDS: Dillon Gee (4-4, 4.42 ERA) toe the rubber in the series opener tomorrow night versus the Cincinatti Reds at 7:10 pm in Citi Field.  He will oppose Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (2-4, 3.79).

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