R.A. Dickey looks on during the ninth inning against the...

R.A. Dickey looks on during the ninth inning against the Padres. (Aug. 10, 2011) Credit: David Pokress

R.A. Dickey didn't bury them. But he didn't make it easy for the Mets either.

The knuckleballer was anything but sharp against the San Diego Padres early on Wednesday night, giving up a run on the first four pitches he threw. And that deficit only ballooned as the third inning came to a close.

The Mets showed some fight, but the hole proved insurmountable in a 9-5 loss. Dickey, who hasn't recorded a win since July 25, allowed six hits, five runs (three earned), walked one and struck out one in six innings. He retired his final 11 batters.

But far more frustrating than Dickey's lack of location and the Mets' two fielding errors were the mental mistakes, said Terry Collins. Like Willie Harris' play on the double-steal in the ninth that allowed Jesus Guzman to steal home or Bobby Parnell's inability to maintain his focus when covering first base. But the most glaring mistake of all was Ruben Tejada's attempt to score standing up in the fourth.

"That's not accepted, I don't care what level you're at," Collins said. "I asked him, 'Why didn't you slide?' He didn't know. He just saw the catcher come off the plate, thought he could score . . . It's just a mistake there and it'll come back at this level to hurt you."

Despite those miscues, the Mets, who tallied 15 hits, mounted a comeback. Jason Pridie, who pinch hit for Angel Pagan (back spasms) in the fourth, singled to center to drive in Nick Evans and make it 5-3. They brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth when Tejada, who tied a career-high with three hits, doubled and Harris drove in Tejada with a pinch-hit single.

But the Padres tagged Parnell for three runs in the top of the ninth to take a 9-4 lead. "I left the ball over the middle of the plate," the reliever said. " . . . I left them up . . . just a bad day."

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The Mets scored another run in the bottom of the inning on second baseman Logan Forsythe's error on a Tejada groundout. But Harris lined out to Forsythe to end the game.

With a makeshift roster filled with rookies, errors are going to happen, said David Wright.

"It's the same game that these guys were playing in the minor leagues, but obviously it's on a bigger stage and sometimes the speed of the game quickens up a little bit," said Wright, whose fifth-inning double tied Ed Kranepool for the most total bases in franchise history (2,047). " . . . You've got a lot of young guys that are learning on the job, but still that's not an excuse for the mental part of it."

Dickey said it was a "real sloppy game for us collectively," but shouldered the responsibility. "Look no further than this locker," he said. "I could have left that game winning."

After going 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA last season, he's 5-11 with a 3.75 ERA. Even more startling: just 1-8 at Citi Field. But Dickey believes those disparate numbers are sheer coincidence.

"It's an anomaly as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Will Venable sparked the Padres' offense with a triple on Dickey's second pitch of the game. Mike Baxter, making his first start for the Mets in rightfield, had trouble fielding the ball, which ricocheted off the top of the wall and rolled away. And within a few minutes, the Padres went up 1-0 on a sacrifice fly by Bartlett. The Padres, aided by two Mets errors, scored twice in both the second and third to take a 5-0 lead.

Josh Thole, who tied a career-high four hits, is hitting .325 since May 25. Jason Bay (0-for-4 with a walk) snapped his 11-game hitting streak.