The Mets' best reliever, Jesse Orosco, walked two runs home in the eighth inning last night in New York, then gave up a three-run double to the St. Louis Cardinals' Tommy Herr.

The 9-5 defeat cost the Mets a chance to gain on the Chicago Cubs and reduced the magic number in the NL East to 11.

"He's bound to lose one once in a while," teammate Darryl Strawberry observed, "but it was the wrong time."

"I've never seen him as wild as he was tonight," his manager, Dave Johnson, said.

Orosco inherited a 4-3 lead from Brent Gaff at the beginning of the eighth inning. Darrell Porter beat out a hit to short and Paul Householder ran for him. Lonnie Smith doubled and, one out later, Tito Landrum walked. Ozzie Smith forced Householder, but Art Howe walked on a 3-1 count and Willie McGee on a full count, putting the Cardinals ahead, 5-4. Then Herr doubled into the left field corner.

St. Louis got another run in the ninth when George Foster played Householder's fly into a three-base error and Lonnie Smith hit a sacrifice fly.

Neil Allen (9-5) pitched two innings before Bruce Sutter came on to extend his NL save record to 42.