NEW YORK (AP) - Neil Walker belted a two-run homer, and every bunt, blooper and bleeder from the rest of the Pirates' lineup seemed to be landing for a hit.
They had a seven-run lead on the New York Mets by the middle of the third inning.
Then it all went away.
Carlos Beltran's three-run homer started New York's rally and Pittsburgh failed to find an answer, watching the Mets pull off their biggest comeback in more than a decade for a brutally disheartening 9-8 loss on Thursday.
``That's why you play nine innings and that's what makes the game a challenge,' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ``Nothing is a given.'
Beltran homered in the bottom of the third, then hit a leadoff double in the sixth as the Mets scored four times to tie it 7-all. Ruben Tejada delivered a go-ahead sacrifice fly off Jose Veras (1-2) in the eighth and Beltran drew a bases-loaded walk later in the inning.
It was the Mets' biggest rally to win since June 30, 2000, when they overcame an 8-1 deficit by scoring 10 times in the eighth to beat Atlanta 11-8, STATS LLC said.
The Mets' beat-up bullpen hung tough through the final four innings to salvage a split of the four-game series. Jason Isringhausen (1-0) worked the eighth and Francisco Rodriguez overcame an RBI single by Walker in the ninth for his 16th save.
``Completing the task is what we need to take from this,' Hurdle said. ``People at this level, no matter how hard, no one's going to give up. There's too much pride involved.'
Walker finished with four RBIs, Xavier Paul had a career-high four hits and Andrew McCutchen drove in a pair of runs for the Pirates, who had been playing better on the road.
They won their 17th game away from PNC Park on Wednesday night, matching their total from all of last season, and had won seven of 10 series as the visiting club.
The success looked as if it would continue early on.
Seven of the first 12 Pittsburgh batters singled off Mike Pelfrey. No. 13 was Walker, whose two-run shot in the second inning sliced through winds gusting up to 35 mph and bounced off the billboards overhanging the bullpens in right-center field.
``Fastball right down the middle,' Pelfrey said. ``That ball went a long way.'
The Pirates tacked on another run in the third, when Dusty Brown walked, moved to second on pitcher Paul Maholm's base hit and scored on Paul's third single in as many innings.
``He had an outstanding game,' Hurdle said of his speedy leadoff man, who swiped a pair of bases and scored three times. ``He made a lot of things happen out there. It was good to see.'
The Mets' rally began when Jose Reyes hit a two-out single in the third. Justin Turner followed with a single before Beltran launched a 1-2 pitch from Maholm into the teeth of the wind, the ball slamming off the facing of the second deck in left field.
New York pulled even in the sixth. Beltran doubled off the wall and Jason Bay drew a walk before Maholm retired the next two hitters. Then things unraveled for the left-hander.
Nick Evans walked to load the bases and Tejada sent a two-run single to right. Daniel Murphy's pinch-hit RBI single knocked Maholm from the game, and Chris Resop's first delivery to Reyes wound up at the backstop, allowing Tejada to scamper home with the tying run.
Maholm allowed six earned runs to snap a string of 13 straight games by Pirates starters with two earned runs or fewer, the longest stretch by a major league team this season and the longest by Pittsburgh since September 1968.
``I lost my rhythm in the sixth and they took advantage of that,' Maholm said. ``They spot me seven and I give it up. It's not something that should happen and hopefully it won't happen again. They got off to a great start and I screwed it up.'
NOTES: The Mets optioned LHP Mike O'Connor to Triple-A Buffalo after the game. They will make a corresponding roster move before Friday night's game against Atlanta. ... Mets RHP Taylor Buchholz (right shoulder fatigue) went on the DL to make room for Reyes, retroactive to May 30. ... Ronny Cedeno has gone 40 games without an error, the longest streak by a Pirates SS since Jack Wilson went 42 games in 2008.
The Associated Press News Service
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