DENVER -- Two late-inning game-tying home runs, including a pinch-hit grand slam from Todd Helton, were not enough for the Rockies to claim victory from the Mets Sunday. After New York scored in the 10th and 11th innings, the Mets held on to win, 6-5, handing Colorado a heartbreaking defeat on the heels of an exhilarating comeback.
Todd Helton stole the thunder from Johan Santana with his slam to tie the game with two outs in the eighth inning, dramatically dodging a blanking on Blake Street.
In the 10th the Rockies fell behind, 5-4, on an RBI double from Denver native Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but in the bottom half of the inning, Carlos Gonzalez exploded with another game-tying homer to right field, a line drive that just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard.
"In my mind that was one of the gutsiest efforts since I've been here managing," manager Jim Tracy said. "The disappointing thing is that we came up short. But what an effort we gave. You play the game until it's over. That's exactly what we did today, and I'm really, really proud of them for that."
A weary Rockies bullpen ultimately couldn't hold on, as David Wright reached base for the fifth time with a leadoff single in the 11th and came around to score two singles later, when Ike Davis found a hole on the left side of the Rockies infield and damped the fireworks from Helton and Gonzalez.
Helton's no-doubter over the right-field scoreboard brought an end to an afternoon of futility against Santana, who continued his career-long dominance of the Rockies by extending his scoreless streak to a record 22 innings, spanning three career starts. The previous record against the Rockies had been 18 1/3 by John Grabow. Colorado collected only two hits off Santana over six innings, a two-out single in the first by Gonzalez and a fifth-inning double from Chris Nelson.
"He threw the ball quite well," Rockies starting pitcher Jamie Moyer said of Santana. "It was typical Johan. He doesn't have his 95 mph fastball any more, but he still knows how to pitch. He used his changeup effectively, and for the most part he got fairly quick outs."
After a scoreless seventh inning from reliever Miguel Batista, the Rockies loaded the bases with two outs against Jon Rauch in the eighth. Dexter Fowler singled up the middle and Gonzalez walked with one out, followed by Michael Cuddyer walking with two outs. The Mets went to southpaw Tim Byrdak and the Rockies brought Helton in to pinch-hit.
"They don't ever give up," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I've known Jim Tracy for too many years, and you saw he absolutely got himself, as he always does, in the situation that he wanted. He got matchups that he wanted. They're tough here."
Helton took the count to 2-2 against Byrdak before launching his slam on an epic arc that towered over the third deck before landing beyond the right-field scoreboard. It was the sixth slam of Helton's career, his second pinch-hit homer (his first was 15 years ago in his first month in the big leagues), and his first ever pinch-hit grand slam.
"It was an up and down game," Helton said. "Santana looked like he was throwing the ball really well. To be able to get back into that game was big."
Helton faced Byrdak the night before, and Byrdak got the best of him, striking him out to end the inning with a fastball. Being fooled once was enough for Helton, who anticipated the matchup and prepared in the indoor hitting cage as the game progressed.
"I set up the machine to throw left-handed curveballs, so I was looking for it and got it," Helton said. "I was a little concerned because he blew that one fastball by me earlier, so I was concerned about chasing something up, and I was hoping he would throw me that pitch in that situation."
The Mets got to Moyer early, extending him to 34 pitches in a three-run opening inning. Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada hit back-to-back singles to center, and Wright drove them both home with a double to left before coming around to score himself on Scott Hairston's single to left.
"In the first inning they hit some decent pitches," Moyer said. "They came out and attacked me. I somehow put a stop to it. They forced me to throw a lot of pitches too, which I wasn't really excited about."
Moyer hung in and spared the overworked bullpen as long as he could, pitching five innings and throwing 109 pitches. The only other damage against him came with two outs in the fifth when Josh Thole hit his first home run of the year into the Rockies right-field bullpen. Moyer allowed four runs on 11 hits and two walks while striking out seven.
"A big first inning in most ballparks, but not here," Moyer said of his bounce back after the three early runs. "It was my responsibility to try and put up as many zeros behind that as possible and give us a chance to get in the game. We weren't that far out of it."
Of the 29 innings played between the Rockies and Mets over the weekend, Rockies starting pitchers handled 14 and the relievers pitched 15, a burden that showed up in extra innings Sunday, but that was staved off by Moyer's gutsy pitching. The team followed his lead and twice succeeded in tying the game before finally running short in the 11th.
"For me it's a big sign of the character of this ballclub," Moyer said of the effort. "When you play 162 games you're going to have some tough wins, some comeback wins, and you're going to have some tough losses. But these types of games prove to everyone inside this clubhouse our own resiliency. I think that's important, I really do."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.