PITTSBURGH -- Outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter entered the game in the eighth inning and made an immediate impact.
Too bad for the New York Mets, it was a negative impact and helped Pittsburgh beat the Mets 5-4 on Monday.
Nieuwenhuis, the center fielder, nearly collided with Baxter, the left fielder, while trying to catch Neil Walker's flyball to the gap in left-center leading off the eighth. The ball clanked off Nieuwenhuis' glove for a three-base error.
Walker later scored the winning run on Clint Barmes' sacrifice fly.
The Mets lost for the third time in their last four games and failed to win back-to-back games for the first time since May 8-9. The Pirates won for the second time in three games.
"It's one of those things that happens sometimes," Mets manager Terry Collins said of the error. "You're out there and there's a lot of noise, Mike is calling for it, Kirk is calling for it, and they can't hear each other. But once the center fielder calls it, it's his ball. Somehow Mike has to know the center fielder is coming. We've just got to catch the ball there."
Both Baxter and Nieuwenhuis said they never heard each other.
"I should have taken a look to see where he was and that's 100 percent my fault," Baxter said. "It's a fundamental of baseball. Kirk has right away on that ball as the center fielder, and I should have gotten out of the way. It hurts. It really hurts. It cost us the game."
Said Nieuwenhuis, "It's tough to swallow when guys are battling the whole nine innings and you don't make that play. I took a peak over at him and saw him coming. It was my fault. I should have let him catch it."
Pittsburgh tied the game at 4-4 in the seventh inning on Michael McKenry's two-run home run off Johan Santana. The Mets had handed Santana a 4-0 lead in the second inning, but the Pirates, the lowest-scoring team in the major leagues, got two runs back in the fourth.
"Santana is tough," McKenry said. "We faced a lot of good pitching this year and haven't scored many runs. I got a pitch up from him, fortunately, and was able to drive it. You take whatever you can get from a guy like that. You don't expect to score four runs off him."
Jon Rauch (3-3) took the loss after Santana allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Jared Hughes (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for his first major-league win. Joel Hanrahan set the Mets down in order in the ninth for his 10th save.
David Wright went 2-for-3 for the Mets to lift his major league-leading batting average to .418, though he also committed two errors. Ronny Cedeno also had two hits for New York.
Andrew McCutchen, who is hitting .340, was 2-for-4 for Pittsburgh.
The Mets opened the scoring with four runs off Erik Bedard in the second inning.
Vinny Rottino, recalled from Triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day, hit a one-out single and scored on Cedeno's double to center field. Justin Turner grounded a two-run single to left field with two outs, and Wright followed with an RBI single to right that made it 4-0.
The Pirates cut the gap in half as consecutive doubles by Josh Harrison, McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez to lead off the fourth inning off Santana made it 4-2. However, Santana escaped further trouble by inducing McKenry to hit into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
Bedard was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning. He allowed four runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
"I was very surprised to lose a 4-0 lead with Johan pitching, but the big difference is we didn't add on runs," Collins said. "When they scored two runs (in the fourth), we had several opportunities to get them back and we didn't. There have been three or four games this year where we score three or four runs in an inning and you look up at the end and that's all we've got."
NOTES: Rottino, a utility player, made his first career start at first base in place of slumping Ike Davis, whose 2-for-29 skid has dragged his batting average down to .161. RHP Chris Schwinden was optioned to Buffalo. ... Mets C Josh Thole (concussion) and LF Jason Bay (broken rib), who are both on the disabled list, reported to New York's spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Monday to begin baseball activities. ... Mets SS Ruben Tejada (right quad strain) is also working out at Port St. Lucie, and the Mets are hoping to activate him from the DL by the weekend. ... Pittsburgh RHP Jeff Karstens pitched three shutout inning for Double-A Altoona on Monday night in his first rehabilitation start since going on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation on April 18. ... Harrison made his first career start in the outfield as he played right field ... Mets RHP R.A. Dickey (5-1, 3.75) faces RHP James McDonald (3-2, 2.68) on Tuesday night.
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