Mets starting pitcher Jenrry Mejia, left, steps off the mound...

Mets starting pitcher Jenrry Mejia, left, steps off the mound after he was pulled by manager Terry Collins, second from left, as shortstop Ruben Tejada, back, and catcher Anthony Recker look on after he gave up a grand slam to Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado in the fifth inning at Coors Field on May 3, 2014 in Denver. Credit: AP / David Zalubowski

DENVER -- In every way, it was classic Coors Field.

The Mets squandered a big lead. The Rockies roared back with an inning that would not end. And by the end of a marathon matchup, neither team proved capable of holding on.

But in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Charlie Culberson brought an end to the back-and-forth Saturday night, smashing a two-run homer off Kyle Farnsworth to send the Mets to a crushing 11-10 loss to the Rockies.

"You've got to keep on battling," said Farnsworth, who failed to protect a 10-9 lead. "The guys played well tonight. We came out on the wrong end of it. You've got to do this in this kind of park. That's the way it goes sometimes."

The game featured four lead changes. The first came in the fifth, when the Rockies torched Jenrry Mejia for eight runs, erasing what had been a 6-0 deficit. The last came with one out in the ninth, when Culberson sent his game-winner over the 415-foot sign in straightaway center. It came after the Mets pushed ahead 10-9 in the top of the ninth on Juan Lagares' single, which drove in pinch runner Eric Young Jr. after a leadoff double by pinch hitter Bobby Abreu.

The Mets dropped their third in a row, leaving themselves needing a win Sunday to avoid a four-game sweep. "They fought back time and again tonight," manager Terry Collins said. "Swung the bats very, very well."

The Mets had a season-high 17 hits, including four by Daniel Murphy and three by David Wright. But it wasn't enough to beat the Rockies, who got a game-changing grand slam from Nolan Arenado in the fifth when Collins erred in sticking with Mejia.

"They hit me, they got me, they hit a couple of home runs," said Mejia, who allowed a career-high eight runs in 41/3 innings. "They're pretty good."

Mejia had tossed four shutout innings, but everything changed in the fifth. Ryan Wheeler led off with a solo shot into the rightfield stands. Three batters later, Charlie Blackmon had a one-out RBI single. Drew Stubbs and Carlos Gonzalez followed with run-scoring singles of their own.

In the middle of all that, first baseman Lucas Duda dropped a throw, wiping out what could have been a double play.

With the Mets' lead down to 6-4, Collins stuck with Mejia, who plunked Troy Tulowitzki to load the bases. Then Arenado extended his hitting streak to 23 games and put the Rockies ahead 8-6.

Collins finally emerged to pull Mejia. The move came too late.

"I knew that question was going to come," Collins said. "We've got a double play we don't turn over, he jams [Charlie] Blackmon, gets a ground ball by Gonzalez. Arenado has hit two ground balls that were double plays. Once again, looking back, I should've taken him out. But I didn't."

Remarkably, the Mets fought back, tying the score in the sixth on an RBI double by Chris Young and a run-scoring single by Curtis Granderson. The Rockies pulled ahead 9-8 on Jordan Pacheco's sacrifice fly in the seventh, but the Mets tied it again on an RBI single by Chris Young in the eighth.

With one out in the ninth, Lagares lined a single to rightfield off former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins, pushing the go-ahead run across. But all that did was set the stage for the Rockies to walk off not long after that.

"We gave ourselves every chance possible to win the game," said Granderson, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. "That's all we could do."