NEW YORK – With first base open and the Cubs' best run producer at the plate in the ninth inning, Chicago manager Mike Quade was relieved to see the Mets pitch to Aramis Ramirez.
Ramirez came through, too, hitting a two-run single with two outs, lifting the Cubs to a 5-4 victory over New York after they blew a three-run lead in the eighth Saturday.
"These are the decisions you live and die with," Quade said. "The question doesn't get asked unless Rami gets a base hit, does it?"
Jason Bay had given the Mets a 4-3 lead in the eighth with a two-out, two-run single. But some more sloppy play by New York in the ninth on an overall rough day in the field and another meltdown by Bobby Parnell (3-6) helped the Cubs even a three-game series that will culminate with a ceremony Sunday to mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Mets are offering free tickets to New York City first responders and their families for that game.
The Mets won the opener Friday night in the ninth after blowing a lead in the top half.
Afterward, workers painted the logo being used Sunday onto the Citi Field grass in foul territory, about 50 feet down the first- and third-base lines: a stars and stripes rendering of the MLB logo laying on top of red and blue ribbons, encircled by the saying "September 11, 2001. We shall not forget."
In the outfield, several dozen people constructed an enormous American flag out of red and white fabric strips. The blue and white stars section came in one piece that covered much of left field.
The Cubs built an early 2-0 lead with help from two errors by Jose Reyes in a dog of a game through seven innings on Bark in the Park day, a benefit for the North Shore Animal league. There were 332 dogs in attendance along with 30,443 people.
David Wright made his second error and New York's fourth of the game — the team's most since Aug. 4, 2010 — when he couldn't handle Geovany Soto's grounder leading off the ninth.
Pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair doubled to put runners at second and third. Parnell then got two outs ahead of Ramirez. Collins considered walking Ramirez but he was thinking of his young closer.
"The one thing that enters my mind is I didn't want to put Bobby in that: He can't miss, I've got to throw that ball over the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Ramirez then lined an opposite-field single to right for the go-ahead runs. Parnell has been given an opportunity to earn the closer role for the Mets but he has blown five saves in 10 chances.
"I feel like I didn't give him anything good to hit," Parnell said. "I got a groundball out of it. Unfortunately it was in the hole."
Kerry Wood (3-5) earned the win even though he gave up two runs in the eighth in relief of Randy Wells, who pitched neatly into the eighth inning.
Carlos Marmol gave up a one-out walk in the ninth but finished for his 34th save in 43 opportunities.
Trailing 3-0 in the eighth and having wasted several opportunities against Wells, the Mets scored four times after pinch-hitter Willie Harris walked leading off, the third time they had the leadoff batter reach in four innings. Reyes followed with an RBI double to end Wells' day.
Wood entered and gave up a hit to Ruben Tejada and an RBI single to Wright after striking out Lucas Duda. Angel Pagan struck out and Wright stole second without a throw when the count was 0-2 to Bay.
Bay then lined a hit over leaping shortstop Starlin Castro for two runs, wasting another strong effort by Wells.
"All I care about is if the team wins," Wells said.
Most of the dogs were gone by the time the Mets mounted their eighth-inning rally to take a 4-3 lead.
Marlon Byrd had an RBI double in the eighth inning off Ryota Igarashi after Chris Capauno pitched seven impressive innings for New York to make it 3-0.
Reed Johnson doubled and scored in the first when Reyes jumped to catch Jeff Baker's sharp line drive right at him but dropped the ball. Johnson then added an RBI fielder's choice in the fifth a batter after Reyes fumbled Starlin Castro's grounder before he tried to make a throw to second for a forceout.
"It's no one person's fault that you lose a game," Wright said. "Collectively there's a lot of things we could have done to win this game."
Wells has not lost since July 28 when his ERA was 6.16. In eight starts since then, he has lowered it to 4.73. The right-hander didn't allow a baserunner until Mike Nickeas singled with one out in the third.
Capuano rebounded from his worst start of the year in which he gave up six runs in four innings against the Marlins on Monday with seven solid innings. He gave up five hits and two runs, striking out six.
Castro had two hits for Chicago to up his NL-leading total to 186.
NOTES: Mets LHP Johan Santana will make another rehab start, either in the minors or in a simulated game in New York. Collins said "we have no plans to see him here" this season. ... Quade said the "medical people will decide what's best for" RHP Andrew Cashner, who was activated from the 60-day DL on Monday. Cashner (strained right rotator cuff) hasn't pitched in the majors since being injured on April 5, his only outing of the season. ... Cubs RHP Matt Garza (8-10) faces RHP Miguel Batista (4-2) on Sunday.