Ike homers, Valdespin drives in four as Mets crush Rays
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The resilient attitude that briefly drove the Mets near the top of the NL East just more than a week ago resurfaced Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, where they bounced back from being swept by the Yankees with an 11-2 interleague victory over Tampa Bay.
Eight runs were the product of rallies that began with two outs, including a six-run seventh inning. Designated hitter Jordany Valdespin drove in a career-high four runs, Daniel Murphy delivered a two-run single with the bases loaded in the seventh and Ike Davis discovered his home run swing with a three-run shot that snapped a string of 82 at-bats without a homer since May 11.
Starter Chris Young (1-0) gained his first win in his second start since coming back from shoulder surgery, but it was the Mets' beleaguered bullpen that got the most relief from their season-high run support. Manager Terry Collins used a combination of five relievers to get the last 10 outs.
"We've lost some games we could have won," Collins said, referring to six losses in their previous seven games. "But I'll tell you what, the thing that makes this team fun to be around is that they just don't get down about it. Yeah, they were upset about the way the games went in New York, but they knew they had a challenge here in Tampa."
The Mets scored a first-inning run with the aid of a Tampa Bay error, but in the bottom half of the inning, Young loaded the bases with one out. The Rays took a 2-1 lead on a single by Hideki Matsui that rightfielder Lucas Duda had a tough time tracking and a sacrifice fly by Will Rhymes.
Young made it through 5 2/3 innings and 106 pitches without yielding more runs. He left with a 3-2 lead thanks to a two-out single by Omar Quintanilla in the top of the fifth that was followed by a double from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the first of his three hits that tied a career high, and a two-run single by Valdespin.
"Terry and Dan asked me after the fifth how I felt," Young said. "I told them I wasn't aware of the pitch count. I'm going to go off feel, and I felt good . . . My command got better, life of the ball got better, everything got better."
With two outs in the seventh, Nieuwenhuis walked and scored on a double by Valdespin. Tampa starter Alex Cobb (2-3) intentionally walked David Wright before giving way to lefthanded reliever J.P. Howell, who gave up an infield single to Duda that loaded the bases. Murphy pounded a two-run single for a 6-2 lead before Davis blew it open with his three-run homer for a 9-2 margin.
In his first at-bat, Davis reacted to a shift by Rays manager Joe Maddon by bunting for a single. Collins joked that, if Davis had started bunting earlier, his average "would be .275 by now."
But in the seventh, Davis did what he does best, crushing the big fly into the rightfield seats. "It was a little sigh of relief," said Davis, whose average has inched up to .174. "Hitting a home run is a great feeling. For a lot of people who play the game, it's like a drug. But every time I get on base, I feel relief."
Before the game, Collins worried about a bullpen that has major-league worsts in losses (15), ERA (5.59) and blown saves (13). He said the only reliever who has a set role is closer Frank Francisco. But it was the Mets' hitters who provided the real relief against the Rays.