By RICK FREEMAN=
^AP Sports Writer=
NEW YORK (AP) _ For eight innings, the New York Mets made embarrassing mistakes, squandered chances and looked almost totally adrift.
That all got wiped away with a four-run bottom of the ninth.
Nieuwenhuis hit a three-run homer after Marlon Byrd got it started with a leadoff shot and the Mets salvaged what had been shaping up as another sorry afternoon, startling the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Sunday.
“Winning is a good feeling no matter what your record,” David Wright said. “And a win is a win, no matter how it happens.”
Jeremy Hefner had another good start for the Mets, and it looked as if this one, too, would be for naught. He allowed one earned run, on a single by Alfonso Soriano, and struck out five in five innings.
“I’m happy for Kirk, happy for the team,” Hefner said. “We came in intent on winning.”
Matt Garza pitched seven scoreless innings and the Cubs scored twice on a madcap play that featured three bad throws by Mets infielders, giving Chicago a 3-0 lead.
“A win doesn’t fix all your issues,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
The Mets had lost 10 of 12 entering the game and appeared headed for a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs. They also went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position before Nieuwenhuis’ shot.
Nevertheless, “if this can’t be used as a spark, what can we do?” Collins said.
But New York came back against Carlos Marmol (2-4) in the ninth, starting with Byrd’s home run. Nieuwenhuis connected with one out.
“When you blow a save, you lost the game. It’s tough,” Marmol said.
Bobby Parnell (5-3) pitched the top of the ninth after a scoreless eighth by David Aardsma and two scoreless innings from Carlos Torres, called up from Triple-A the night before.
“Everyone’s focus is on the bullpen holding a lead,” Aardsma said. “But we have to come in and keep the team in a game, can’t give up another run. And today, because we did, the bats were able to come through in the ninth.”
Garza gave up three hits and struck out five, and was all set up for his second win in five starts this season. The Cubs had used closer Kevin Gregg on four consecutive days and manager Dale Sveum turned to Marmol, who had been unseated as closer earlier this season.
Marmol continued to test Cubs’ fans patience by allowing a long homer to Byrd before walking Lucas Duda. After a visit from Sveum, he pitched John Buck low and away, eventually yielding an opposite-field single. Omar Quintanilla sacrificed the runners ahead and Marmol peered into the Cubs dugout.
Marmol remained in the game, however, and Nieuwenhuis took him deep off the facing of the second deck in right field. Nieuwenhuis recently was promoted to the majors after slumping earlier this season and getting demoted to Triple-A.
Garza bounced back nicely from his last time out, when he allowed nine earned runs and 11 hits. He got some help when the Mets ping-ponged the ball around the infield in the fifth inning.
Soriano came to the plate with two outs and the Cubs up 1-0 after Starlin Castro singled and Nate Schierholtz walked. Wright made a diving stop to his left at third base on Soriano’s hard grounder, then sailed his throw over the head of first baseman Daniel Murphy.
The ball bounced off the wall back to Murphy and he picked it up and fired off-balance home, trying to stop Castro from scoring. Murphy’s throw went past Buck at the plate, bonked off a wall and caromed toward third.
Omar Quintanilla was there, having come over from shortstop to back up the original play, and he sprinted in and flipped the ball toward the plate. That throw skittered wide, too, prompting the third groan in a row from the crowd, each one louder than the last.
They stayed restless until Byrd’s at bat in the ninth, when Byrd’s 11th homer of the season got them back cheering again. They stayed that way all the way through to Nieuwenhuis’ big home run.
“You don’t forget about this. You build off of it, remember how much fun it is coming in the clubhouse, the celebration” Byrd said. “That plane ride’s going to be nice and relaxing, so you try to build off it and keep winning games.”
NOTES: Garza walked two and hit a batter. … The Mets head to Atlanta for a five-game series with the Braves that will include a doubleheader on Tuesday. On Monday, RHP Dillon Gee (5-6) is expected to start for New York against Tim Hudson (4-6). The Cubs will be at St. Louis, where Travis Wood (5-5) is set to face Shelby Miller (7-4) of the Cardinals. … A fan caught a foul ball backhanded in the second inning, pumped his fist and got a big cheer from the crowd.