NEW YORK – With consecutive comebacks against baseball's best bullpen, the New York Mets pulled off a feat they hadn't achieved since Casey Stengel was their manager.
Rookie reliever Josh Spence walked light-hitting Ruben Tejada to force home the tiebreaking run and New York rallied late for the second straight night, beating the San Diego Padres 5-4 on Tuesday night.
"We like to fight to the end. That's the team that we are," center fielder Angel Pagan said.
Pagan homered to start New York's latest comeback and Jason Isringhausen earned his 299th save. The Mets, who trailed by four runs in the eighth inning Monday and by two in the eighth on Tuesday, won both games to move back above .500 (58-57).
The Mets said the last time they won consecutive games when trailing by two or more in the eighth inning or later was April 1965 at San Francisco, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
"This team is not going to give up. They're going to play until the game is over," manager Terry Collins said.
Orlando Hudson, starting in the cleanup spot for the first time in his 10-year career, hit an RBI double for the Padres before leaving with a strained right groin. He is day to day.
Wade LeBlanc returned from a brief trip to the minors and pitched six solid innings for San Diego. He was in line for his first major league victory in almost a year before the depleted Mets fought back again.
"They're doing a good job of battling for nine innings, those guys. And our guys are, too," LeBlanc said. "They've been two close games and we've just come out on the wrong end."
Pagan, the team's new leadoff man because of an injury to Jose Reyes, homered for the second consecutive night when he connected on an 0-2 pitch from Chad Qualls (5-6) to start the eighth.
That cut New York's deficit to 4-3. Justin Turner and David Wright followed with singles, chasing Qualls, and Lucas Duda advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt against Spence.
"I was very impressed by that," Collins said. "I haven't seen Lucas Duda bunt before tonight."
Jason Bay was intentionally walked and pinch-hitter Nick Evans tied it with a sacrifice fly off Spence, who entered with an 0.45 ERA in 23 appearances.
Ronny Paulino walked to load the bases and the 21-year-old Tejada, filling in at shortstop for Reyes, worked his way back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk that put New York ahead.
"I felt I made my pitches but at the same time I didn't adjust to the strike zone like I should have and fell behind. It's just unfortunate — Wade definitely deserved to win tonight," Spence said. "To Tejada, I just was erratic and you can't do that. That's the winning run."
D.J. Carrasco (1-2) replaced an injured Manny Acosta in the eighth and escaped a jam unscathed.
Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save of the season.
"It was probably better tonight because I didn't have time to think," Isringhausen said.
Jason Bartlett hit an RBI double and Jesus Guzman doubled twice for the last-place Padres, who arrived in New York with a four-game winning streak and the best bullpen ERA in the majors.
San Diego said the last time it lost consecutive games when leading by at least two runs in the eighth inning or later was July 1995 at Houston, according to Elias.
"We're not used to it," Bartlett said. "But I've been around a while and guys aren't perfect. I've seen the best give up runs, and you can't say much because those guys have been great all year."
Heavy rain all afternoon kept the tarp on the field and canceled batting practice, but the game started on time and finished without interruption.
The score was tied at 2 in the fifth when San Diego mounted a two-out rally against starter Chris Capuano. Cameron Maybin singled and scored on Bartlett's double to deep right. Guzman followed with an RBI double to make it 4-2.
Capuano gave up two runs in the fourth, but the Mets scored twice in the bottom half.
Duda singled for the fifth straight plate appearance, including a two-run hit off All-Star closer Heath Bell that gave New York a 9-8 victory Monday night.
Bay reached on an infield single and Scott Hairston hit an RBI double high off the 16-foot fence in left-center. Paulino's sacrifice fly tied it.
Hudson hurt himself chasing a foul ball in the fourth, a Padres spokesman said. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Alberto Gonzalez in the fifth.
Gonzalez remained in the game at second base and opened the eighth with a soft liner that deflected off Acosta's pitching hand for a single, tearing the nail on his ring finger and knocking the right-hander out of the game.
NOTES: Padres 3B James Darnell went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and a double-play grounder in his major league debut. ... Paulino threw out Maybin trying to steal second in the seventh. That snapped a streak of 21 successful stolen base attempts by Maybin, caught for the first time since April 29. ... Collins plans to give OF Mike Baxter his first big league start Wednesday night against RHP Aaron Harang (10-3). Claimed off waivers from the Padres last month, Baxter grew up in Queens about 10 minutes from the Mets' home. ... Mets 1B Ike Davis (ankle) will rest for another three weeks and then be re-evaluated. He is not expected back this season.