PITTSBURGH -- Even during a 162-game season that lasts six months, there are losses that hurt far more than others. Losses that a few innings before were certain wins. Losses that gnaw at a team's confidence.
For the New York Mets, this could be one of those very bad defeats.
Two costly New York errors and Adam LaRoche's third hit of the game helped finish off Pittsburgh's comeback from a five-run deficit, and the Pirates avoided being swept at home by the Mets for the first time since 2001 by winning 10-7 Thursday night.
Jason Bay had three run-scoring singles and LaRoche hit a two-run homer to lead the Pirates' rally from deficits of 5-0 and 7-3, a night after they gave the Mets a big scare by scoring four runs in the ninth before losing 10-8.
"There can be a carryover from something like that," LaRoche said.
This time, the Pirates scored twice in the seventh to tie it and three more times in the eighth to win it as the Mets defense twice allowed Pittsburgh to keep the pivotal eighth inning going.
"To have a lead like that and not be able to put them away, you give them credit for battling back, but there's just no way we should lose a game like that," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.
With two outs in the eighth, third baseman David Wright threw away Freddy Sanchez's potential inning-ending grounder for a two-base error. Sanchez then scored the go-ahead run when catcher Mike DiFelice dropped right fielder Marlon Anderson's throw at the plate for an error after LaRoche singled for his third hit. Bay and Jose Bautista followed with run-scoring singles.
"You try to get the body and ball at the same time, and I got the body without the ball," DiFelice said.
It was the first time the Mets lost a game after having a lead of at least five runs since April 30, 2004, at San Diego, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"When you've got your foot on the neck, you've got to press down real hard and finish them off," Randolph said. "We've lost some tough games here and this was one of them."
Damaso Marte (1-0) won it with a scoreless eighth. Aaron Heilman (7-5), the Mets' fourth pitcher, lost it by allowing three runs -- all unearned -- and five hits over two innings. Matt Capps got the save, his 11th in 13 opportunities.
The Mets were in position to sweep a road series for the first time since May, only to waste Carlos Beltran's two-run homer in the first and two run-scoring singles each for starting pitcher Brian Lawrence and Luis Castillo.
"Obviously, that's a game we should win and we need to win," Wright said.
The Phillies' 4-2 win at Washington and the Mets' loss cut New York's NL East lead to three games.
Lawrence was more effective as a hitter than a pitcher, driving in a run as the Mets scored twice in the third against Pirates starter Tony Armas and the fifth against Franquelis Osoria. Leadoff hitter Jose Reyes baserunning also led to two runs as he stole second base immediately after walking in the first and getting a single in the second.
LaRoche's two-run homer, his 18th, and the first of Ronny Paulino's successive doubles helped the Pirates cut it to 5-3 in the fourth. Bay, only 8-for-53 in his last 12 games coming in, singled in runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth.
"We didn't throw at-bats away, we got ourselves back into the game and then we took some great at-bats," manager Jim Tracy said.
Pittsburgh, trailing 7-5 entering the seventh, tied it by scoring twice against relievers Guillermo Mota, Pedro Feliciano and Heilman. Jose Castillo, playing only because Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson developed asthma-like symptoms in the fifth and had to be assisted to the clubhouse, singled in the tying run.
"You allow a scrappy team like this to score one here, score one there, and it feels like they're still in the game," Wright said. "Then they have one big inning. You basically win seven, eight of the nine innings and lose the game."
The Mets have 37 runs and 58 hits in their last five games, but could win only two of three in Pittsburgh despite scoring 22 runs in the series. They haven't swept a series there since Sept. 17-19, 2001 and were beaten three in a row there last September.
Pittsburgh won even though its three-run fourth was halted after a debatable decision by Tracy. With three runs in and Paulino on second, Tracy allowed reliever Osoria to hit for himself even though the Pirates are carrying seven relievers.
Osoria, appearing in only his fourth game, grounded out, then promptly gave up two runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Lawrence and Castillo.
A night after Green was hit by a pitch during a five-run ninth inning, Lawrence hit Bay with a pitch immediately after LaRoche's homer. Home plate umpire Chad Fairchild immediately warned both benches, and there were no further incidents.
- The Mets stole three bases, giving them eight in as many attempts during their last two games. Reyes now has 60 stolen bases.
- The Pirates have failed to throw out the last 10 runners who attempted to steal on them.
- New York hadn't swept a road series since winning three at Florida from May 25-27.
- New York played without 1B Carlos Delgado (hyperextended knee) and RF Lastings Milledge (flu-like symptoms).
- Wright is 13-for-28 in his last seven games.