NEW YORK — The worst thing about all these long games for the New York Mets is they keep losing them.
Cliff Pennington hit an RBI single with two outs in the 15th inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks, boosted early by Gerardo Parra's bunt double, finally outlasted New York 5-4 in a back-and-forth classic Thursday to split an exhausting series at Citi Field.
Arizona scored in the final three innings but couldn't close out the feisty Mets until Brad Ziegler retired Kirk Nieuwenhuis on an easy grounder with runners at second and third to finish a game that lasted 5 hours, 46 minutes.
"It felt like a marathon tennis match, to be honest with you," Nieuwenhuis said. "It's tough not to come up on top there at the end, but it's a 162-game season and we've got to bring it tomorrow."
Anthony Recker and Nieuwenhuis hit tying homers in consecutive extra innings for New York, making its final home appearance before hosting the All-Star game July 16.
For the first time since 1973, the Mets have played three games that lasted at least 15 innings. They've dropped them all.
"There were lots of chances for lots of guys to end this game," manager Terry Collins said.
In a span of four days, the teams played a 13-inning game, a 15-inning marathon and two others delayed by rain for a total of 3 1/2 hours. The 16 hours, 40 minutes worth of baseball marked the second-longest four-game series in the majors since 1987, according to STATS. The Dodgers and Astros played 11 more minutes inside the Houston Astrodome back in 1989.
So it was only fitting that the finale Thursday went on and on throughout a humid afternoon as kids who lined up beyond the outfield wall in the eighth inning waited patiently to run the bases following the final out.
Cody Ross drew a bases-loaded walk from New York reliever David Aardsma in the 13th, but the Diamondbacks squandered a great chance to add on. And of course, with two outs in the bottom half, Recker homered off Heath Bell to tie it again.
Arizona pushed across another run in the 14th on Martin Prado's bloop RBI single off Brandon Lyon with two outs.
Moments later, Nieuwenhuis sent a one-out liner barely over the left-center fence off Chaz Roe (1-0), who made his major league debut in the series opener Monday.
Recker and Nieuwenhuis were both batting .167 when they connected. The Mets said the last time a team hit two tying homers in extra innings was 1998, when Ray Lankford and Eli Marrero did it for the Cardinals.
"Great game. Well-played game. No one gave up," right fielder Marlon Byrd said as the tired Mets packed for a nine-game road trip. "It's too bad we didn't come out on the winning end. We battled all the way through."
Scott Rice (3-5) retired his first two batters in the 15th before Parra singled. Wil Nieves followed with a single for his fourth hit and Pennington lined a single to left to make it 5-4.
Pennington is 8 for 11 with three RBIs in extra innings this season.
Ziegler walked two in the bottom half but hung on for his first save since 2011 with Oakland. The NL West leaders improved to 10-3 in extra innings, the most such wins in the majors.
"There's no question this team will fight to the end of the game," Ziegler said. "It's just two really competitive teams going out and putting on a show on a holiday."
The Mets are no strangers to long games themselves_ especially on July 4. They lost a 20-inning marathon at home to Miami last month, won a 20-inning game in St. Louis three years ago and came out on top in an Independence Day thriller at Atlanta in 1985.
That rain-delayed 16-13 victory is best remembered for Braves pitcher Rick Camp's tying homer with two outs in the 18th and the postgame fireworks that went off around 4 a.m.
Wearing alternate caps on the Fourth of July, the Mets and Diamondbacks were back at it in 87-degree heat and humidity less than 13 hours after their rain-delayed game ended Wednesday night. Arizona put the leadoff batter on six times in the first eight innings but managed only Nieves' two-run single in the fifth.
Mets starter Dillon Gee and counterpart Ian Kennedy, who matched a season high with eight strikeouts, kept the sluggish offenses in check for seven innings each.
Gee, who entered with a .126 career batting average, lashed a two-out RBI single that tied it 2-all in the fifth.
Ross drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and Parra dragged a hard bunt through the right side. With second baseman Daniel Murphy cheating toward the middle and first baseman Josh Satin breaking back to the bag, the ball rolled into shallow right field before Murphy could retrieve it.
Ross scampered to third and Parra slid into second easily. Nieves smacked the next pitch for a two-run single.
David Wright doubled in the Mets fourth and advanced on Kennedy's wild pitch before scoring on an RBI groundout by Byrd.
But that was only the beginning of a long afternoon.
"It's a grind, but if we want to win a world championship, we're going to have to endure a lot worse than that," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said.
NOTES: Nieves and Recker both caught the entire game. ... Afterward, the Mets designated Lyon for assignment. They will recall reliever Greg Burke from Triple-A Las Vegas before Friday night's game in Milwaukee. ... Mets RHP Zack Wheeler (1-1, 5.06 ERA) makes his fourth major league start Friday night. Wheeler, who wasn't happy with his side session Wednesday, will try to bounce back from his first loss Sunday against the Washington Nationals, who tagged him for five runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. Collins said Wheeler tipping pitches is "a little bit of an issue," and the team addressed some adjustments, mental and mechanical, that need to be made. "This kid's tough," Collins said. "I think what he's experiencing now is going to get him better faster. I don't think he's going to have a tough time dealing with some tough outings." ... With the surprising Satin on a hitting tear, Collins said there's no timetable for when 1B Ike Davis might be recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas. Satin extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He has reached base safely in 15 straight. ... New York pinch hitter John Buck was ejected in the 12th by first base umpire Mike Everitt for protesting a checked-swing third strike.