Gary Matthews Jr. is greeted at the Mets dugout when...

Gary Matthews Jr. is greeted at the Mets dugout when he scored the the tying run in the 8th inning on a bases loaded walk. (April 7, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

There was enough magic in the unusually warm air at Citi Field last night to give the Mets a good chance to start the season with two wins in a row. They battled back from a five-run deficit late in the game against the Marlins, tying it on - of all things - a balk in the eighth inning.

But the magic ran out in the 10th inning as the Marlins scored a run against Hisanori Takahashi and went on to beat the Mets, 7-6.

Takahaski was the third Met to make his big-league debut last night, joining Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Trivia buffs will enjoy that, but Takahashi did not enjoy giving up pinch hitter Ronny Paulino's go-ahead single. Nor did he enjoy seeing Wes Helms get his left hand onto home plate just ahead of the tag from Mets catcher Rod Barajas and ahead of the throw from Gary Matthews Jr.

Barajas, who protested the call slightly at the time, later said it was too bang-bang for him to know if he actually tagged Helms in time.

The Mets, after falling behind 6-1, tied the score with two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. They were helped by six walks - two with the bases loaded - a hit batter, a run-scoring error and the game-tying balk.

The Mets were outhit 17-9 and felt fortunate to be in the ballgame at all in the late innings.

"We were lucky to be in the position we were," Jason Bay said.

Said Barajas: "That was a game we had no business being in. We didn't get many hits. It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to stay in it."

Florida helped. It was 6-3 in the eighth when Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla threw away the back end of a potential double play ball hit by Bay, allowing the Mets' fourth run to score. One out and three walks later, it was 6-5 when Florida closer Leo Nunez walked Fernando Tatis with the bases loaded.

That free pass moved Matthews to third. On the 1-and-1 pitch to Alex Cora, Matthews faked a break to home, causing Nunez to jerk his hands at the waist in the set position. Third-base umpire Wally Bell called the balk, sending Matthews home with the tying run. The inning ended when Cora bounced to first.

Tatis earlier had made a baserunning mistake that cost the Mets in the seventh. David Wright was batting with the bases loaded and two outs and the Mets down 6-3 when Jose Veras threw a high fastball that popped out of the glove of catcher John Baker and squirted toward the backstop. Tatis raced for home.

Baker recovered the ball on the first-base side of home plate and threw a strike to Veras. Tatis slid into the tag and the inning was over without Wright getting a true crack as the potential go-ahead run.

"He just misread it," manager Jerry Manuel said. "It's unfortunate."

But Tatis said, "In that situation, that might have changed the whole game. It was my mistake . . . With David Wright [up], I've got to make sure that ball is far away."

The Mets had scored twice in the inning on three walks, a hit batter and a single by Tatis, who was pinch hitting. The crowd of 38,863 - some of whom were probably lured out by the temperature, which was 83 degrees at game time - probably sensed something special could be happening.

They were almost right.

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