This time, the Mets couldn't come back.
A day after rallying from a four-run deficit, New York blew a bases-loaded threat in the ninth inning Sunday and lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3.
"We're getting to a point, not yet, but we're getting to where every win and every loss to teams in the hunt means something," said Al Leiter, who lost for only the second time in 11 decisions since May 17.
New York maintained a one-game lead in the wild-card race over the Chicago Cubs, who lost to Houston 13-3. A win would have given the Mets a two-game advantage.
"It's not frustrating," Tony Phillips said. "We've got 30-something games left. It's not going to be decided by this game."
Trailing 4-2, the Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth against Gregg Olson on singles by Brian McRae and pinch-hitter Lenny Harris and a bunt single by Luis Lopez. Olson fell down trying to field Lopez's ball.
"Now, how am I going to get out of this?" Olson remembered thinking to himself. "I'd like to sit here a couple more seconds."
Olson struck out pinch-hitter Matt Franco, got pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga on an RBI grounder and retired Phillips on a game-ending groundout for his 22nd save.
"I got a good pitch to hit," Phillips said, "and didn't do much with it."
Still, the Mets are 6-3 on their homestand with one game left and seem to have survived a stretch that included seven games in a four-day span. New York came from behind in four victories during the past week.
"As long as we continue to play like we're playing, we like ouchances," Phillips said.
Leiter (12-5), who entered with the second-lowest ERA in the majors (it rose to 2.42), came out after 130 pitches. He struck out 10 -- one short of his career high -- including seven consecutive batters starting with two outs in the fifth. He allowed three runs, six hits and one walk.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine pinch hit for him in the seventh after 130 pitches.
"It's a hot, humid day," Valentine said. "He's going to finish with 150 if he goes one more inning. I didn't see any sense in that."
Brian Andeerson (9-12) won for only the second time in a month despite allowing his major league-leading 33rd homer, a leadoff drive in the fourth by Edgardo Alfonzo. Anderson, just 1-4 in his previous five starts, gave up two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Arizona, 3-5 against the Mets this year despite leading in seven of the eight games, helped him by stealing a team-record four bases, two by Andy Fox.
"It really created a little havoc," Leiter said.
Arizona's Matt Williams was ejected by plate umpire Bill Hohn in the eighth after he was called out on strikes, his third strikeout of the game. Three innings earlier, Devon White argued with Hohn after he was called out.
"Matt had all he could take and Billy had all he could take, too," Arizona manager Buck Showalter said. "Obviously, the umpire has the last say."
There were 22 strikeouts, 13 by Mets pitchers as Hohn called a wide strike zone.
"There were a lot of people complaining," Valentine said.
White had a broken-bat RBI single in the first, then hit his 18th homer in the fourth -- just the fourth homer off Leiter in 148 2-3 innings this season.
Tony Batista doubled in a run later in the inning for a 3-0 lead, but the Mets closed within a run in the bottom half on Alfonzo's homer and McRae's sacrifice fly.
Anderson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth when Jermaine Allensworth flied out to end the inning, and the Diamondbacks boosted the lead to two runs in the eighth on consecutive doubles by Jay Bell and Batista off Turk Wendell, who had pitched 12 consecutive scoreless innings.
"It seems," Leiter said, "that the teams you're supposed to beat -- as far as you're concerned and the fans are concerned -- are the hardest teams to beat."
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