ST. PETERSBURG -- It must have felt nice, for once, for the Mets to take advantage of another team's mistakes. To score off errors. To come up with key two-out hits. To bludgeon another club's bullpen.
The Mets did all those things and more Tuesday in an 11-2 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field, the most complete victory they have enjoyed in quite some time. Chris Young recovered from a rocky first inning to fall one out shy of a quality start, while Ike Davis and the offense caught fire late to back him.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The Mets are playing the game well and hard. That's how they beat us tonight. They just outplayed us."
It helped, of course, that they put the game out of reach on Davis' three-run home run off left-hander J.P. Howell in the seventh, capping a six-run, two-out rally and marking the first baseman's first homer since May 11. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis sparked that rally with a two-out walk off Rays starter Alex Cobb, Jordany Valdespin doubled him home and David Wright drew an intentional walk.
That brought up Lucas Duda and brought in Howell, who succeeded in fooling Duda on a 3-2 changeup -- but not quite enough. Duda rolled a swinging bunt up the third-base line, reaching safely to extend the rally. The next batter, Daniel Murphy, blooped a two-run single over the second-base bag, before Davis lined his three-run homer into the right-field seats.
"Obviously, it's a great relief," Davis said. "Hitting a home run is a great feeling, period. That's why a lot of people play the game. It's like a drug."
Coming into the day batting .139 over his last 13 games, Davis also bunted for a single to beat Tampa Bay's overshift in the second.
"Thank God it stayed fair," Davis shrugged.
Two-out knocks were plentiful for the Mets, who scored nine of their 11 runs with two outs and went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position -- the primary example coming when they took the lead for good on Valdespin's two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning. Eight of the Mets' nine starting position players reached base at least once; the lone exception was Jason Bay, who finished 0-for-5 and is now 0-for-16 since returning from the disabled list last week. Valdespin finished with a career-high four RBIs, scoring for the first time on Elliott Johnson's error in the first.
As a team, the Mets set season highs with 11 total runs and six in one inning.
"They have this propensity to score two-out runs, which they did again tonight," Maddon said. "It's just unbelievable. Nobody on, two outs, then all of a sudden the floodgates open."
In his second start back from right shoulder surgery, Young gave up two runs -- and quite a few more hard-hit balls -- in a first inning that seemed to portend worse things to come. But Young grew stronger with each passing inning, leaving after walking a batter with two outs in the sixth. The right-hander gave up nine hits and two walks, striking out four and throwing 106 pitches.
That latter number may loom significant five days from now, when Young will pitch on regular rest for the first time this season. But two starts into his comeback, Young came away confident that his surgically repaired right shoulder remains sound.
"My command got better, the life of the ball got better, everything felt a lot better as I went along," Young said. "It was a positive sign."
In sum, the night represented a drastic change for the Mets, who have spent most of June suffering through defensive lapses and bullpen meltdowns of their own. The trouble became so overwhelming over the weekend that Collins vowed before Tuesday's game to shuffle his bullpen hierarchy, removing Jon Rauch from high-leverage situations and replacing him with Bobby Parnell and Miguel Batista.
Given an eight-run lead, the defragmented bullpen held serve Tuesday, with Rauch and Batista retiring their only batters on a popup and a strikeout, respectively. So the bullpen contributed, just as the lineup contributed, just as the rotation contributed. And the Mets came away pleased.
"Top to bottom, we've got a group of fighters," Young said. "It's fun to be part of it."