PITTSBURGH -- A terrible at-bat the night before made Tike Redman determined to get Pittsburgh's rally going. A decisive at-bat the night before made Humberto Cota confident he could finish off the Pirates' most meaningful victory of the season.
Cota's game-winning single completed a frantic comeback in the 10th inning after Mets closer Braden Looper wasted a four-run lead in the ninth, and the Pittsburgh Pirates stunned New York 6-5 Friday night.
The Mets, coming off three wins in a four-game series at NL East leader Washington, opened a 5-1 lead on Ramon Castro's homer and RBI single, but one of the league's most reliable closers couldn't hold it.
"The series before didn't matter - it was a game we should have won tonight," manager Willie Randolph said. "We just gave it away. We deserve what we got. You've got a four-run lead, you've got to close the door and we didn't get it done."
With Looper (2-4) still on in the 10th, Rob Mackowiak reached on second baseman Miguel Cairo's two-base error when his hard throw from short range handcuffed first baseman Jose Offerman. After Jose Castillo grounded out, the left-handed hitting Daryle Ward was intentionally walked so Looper could face the right-handed Cota.
Opposing right-handed batters had only a .212 average against Looper before Cota lined the single into left field, a night after his two-run homer accounted for the Pirates' only runs in a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia.
"In the back of your head, you're thinking about the game-winning base hit," said Cota, who entered in the 10th as a defensive replacement. "You want to have a good at-bat, and he just left a pitch a little over the plate."
Pittsburgh had only five hits in eight innings against starter Victor Zambrano but loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth against reliever Aaron Heilman on Jack Wilson's walk.
After Looper came in, pinch-hitter Tike Redman repeatedly fouled off pitches during a 12-pitch at-bat before grounding a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-3. Despite giving up the hit, Looper still had a chance for his 21st save in 24 opportunities.
"That was the best at-bat we had all year,' Matt Lawton said.
It followed one of his worst at-bats all season, a strikeout with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of a close game Thursday.
"I battled and I fought and finally something good happened," Redman said. "He threw me fastball after fastball and I swung at everything that was close. I wasn't going to strike out."
After that, left fielder Cliff Floyd got a late jump on Lawton's sinking fly ball, then came up short on a diving attempt as the two-run double went under his glove and rolled to the wall.
"I wanted to win, and I did what I thought I could do to help us win. It was a bad decision only because I didn't catch the ball," Floyd said. "I feel worse than anybody."
Except maybe Looper.
"A ground ball, a fly ball and the next thing you know the game is tied,' he said. "Obviously, I felt we had the game win."
Until the ninth, the Mets were cruising behind Zambrano's latest strong start -- the 12th in a row he has allowed three runs or fewer.
New York barely got the ball out of the infield in scoring twice against Josh Fogg before Castro, starting as Mike Piazza sat out a second game in three days, hit a solo homer into the second tier of left-field seats in the seventh.
Piazza seemed a little surprised to be out of the lineup again after ending a brief 0-for-8 slump by getting three hits and driving in two runs in the Mets' 3-2, 11-inning victory Thursday.
Castro's drive into the left-field bleachers made it 3-1 and was his first homer since May 11 last year for Florida. Castro also had an RBI single in a two-run ninth against two relievers.
Castro was in Pittsburgh for the first time since Nov. 29, when he was ordered to serve a year's probation for a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor indecent assault charge. The plea ended a criminal case that began when a woman accused him of raping her Aug. 28, 2003, in his hotel room while with the Marlins.
New York, only 1-5 against Pittsburgh last season, scored in the first despite putting the ball in play only twice, both on groundouts, when Fogg balked with Jose Reyes on third.
Pirates closer Jose Mesa (1-5) pitched the 10th for his first win since Aug. 19 last year.
The Pirates won consecutive games for the first time since June 10-11. ... Zambrano has allowed two runs in 15 innings in two career starts against Pittsburgh. ... Castro's homer was the 16th off Fogg in 17 starts. ... The Mets missed the chance to go two games over .500 for the first time since June 11.