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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rays beat Mets 3-1

NEW YORK (AP) — Carlos Pena hit a tiebreaking homer off Johan Santana in the seventh inning Saturday, sending James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays to a rainy 3-1 victory over the New York Mets.

Shields allowed three hits in seven innings and retired his final 14 batters. He outpitched Santana, who was back in fine form following the worst start of his career.

Both starters were lifted after a 73-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth. Dan Wheeler worked a perfect inning and J.P. Howell got three outs for his fourth save.

Ben Zobrist added a solo homer in the ninth, his 15th in a breakout season for the AL champions.

Santana was tagged for nine runs and nine hits in three-plus innings Sunday, losing 15-0 in the Subway Series finale at Yankee Stadium.

The sluggish performance and diminished velocity on his fastball raised questions about Santana's health, though he insisted he felt fine. After adjusting his mechanics and grip during a recent side session, the ace left-hander looked more like himself Saturday against the top-scoring team in the majors.

Santana (8-5) squandered a 1-0 lead and took the loss, but didn't allow a hit until Jason Bartlett's one-out double in the fifth. He yielded three hits and three walks in 7 1-3 innings.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner showed better zip and command with his fastball, which clocked around 92 mph all game. That's not Santana at his best, but it was a noticeable improvement from Sunday.

His strikeout totals, however, have dropped dramatically. Santana fanned three against Tampa Bay, giving him 11 over his last four starts. He averaged 8.6 strikeouts through his first 10 outings.

Gabe Kapler had an RBI double for the Rays, who snapped a three-game slide.

While Santana pitched well, the Mets reverted back to their early-season trend of not supporting him with much offense. Tampa Bay pitchers retired 19 in a row before Carlos Beltran's two-out single in the ninth. Howell struck out David Wright to end it.

Making his 100th major league start, Shields (6-5) won for the first time in five road outings since April 12 at Baltimore. The right-hander struck out four and walked none. The only run he allowed came on doubles by Ryan Church and Omir Santos in the second.

Five of Shields' wins this season have come after Rays losses. He has stopped a five-game skid and a pair of three-gamers.

With the score tied 1-all, Santana grooved a 92 mph fastball to Pena leading off the seventh and he got all of it.

The booming drive landed about five rows deep in the right-center bleachers, between the 408 and 415 signs, for Pena's AL-leading 22nd home run.

Zobrist, subbing beautifully for injured second baseman Akinori Iwamura, connected off Sean Green in the ninth.

Rain fell for much of the day in New York and the forecast indicated heavy showers were on the way, but the game started right on time.

Despite an occasional drizzle, the first six innings were played in 1 hour, 32 minutes. The downpour began at 6 p.m., just as expected.

Umpires called for the tarp and halted play after Michel Hernandez flied out to start the eighth.

The same storm soon soaked the golf course at Bethpage Black on Long Island, where the third round of the U.S. Open was suspended.

Bartlett's fifth-inning double extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. Kapler followed with an opposite-field double to right, tying it at 1.

NOTES: The Rays finished with five hits, the Mets got four. ... Tampa Bay LHP Scott Kazmir, out since May 21 with a strained right quadriceps, is scheduled to pitch Monday for Triple-A Durham, which will be his second minor league rehab outing. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Rays by the end of the week. ... RHP Chad Bradford (elbow surgery), on a rehab assignment at Durham, might be about a week from returning, too. ... Jeremy Reed started in LF for the Mets, giving Gary Sheffield a rest. ... Shields and Kazmir are the only pitchers to make 100 starts for Tampa Bay. ... It was the first rain delay in Citi Field history.

by the associated press

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