NEW YORK (AP) - After throwing the ball all over the infield and stranding a bevy of runners, the New York Mets finally ran out of comebacks against San Diego's bullpen.
Will Venable sparked a surging offense with four hits from the leadoff spot and the Padres' proud relief corps rebounded from consecutive flops, holding off the Mets at last in a 9-5 victory Wednesday night.
``We're not built right now to overcome those big leads,' third baseman David Wright said.
Once again, however, the feisty Mets fought back until the end.
An error by second baseman Logan Forsythe allowed them to cut the deficit to four in the ninth inning. With the bases loaded, Forsythe then made a leaping grab of Willie Harris' line drive for the final out.
Josh Thole had four of New York's 15 hits. Ruben Tejada added three hits and a spectacular play at shortstop for the Mets, who left 13 on base in a shoddy performance.
New York knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (5-11) retired his final 11 batters but lost his third straight start.
``Just a real sloppy game for us, collectively,' he said. ``And I need to own up myself. I made a poor throw in the second that led to two runs and I had an opportunity to drive in a run with the bases loaded and nobody out and I didn't get that done. So, look no further than this locker right here because I could have left that game very easily winning.'
Center fielder Angel Pagan left with lower back spasms, further depleting New York's injury-riddled lineup.
``Nothing severe. Probably a day or so,' manager Terry Collins said.
Aaron Harang (11-3) won his second straight start despite giving up at least 10 hits in each outing. Cameron Maybin had two RBIs and the Padres built a cushion with a three-run ninth.
Venable scored three times. He tripled, singled and doubled twice for the Padres, who rank at or near the bottom of the National League in nearly every major offensive category. But they have 56 runs in their last six games, going 4-2 during that stretch.
The last-place Padres arrived in New York with a four-game winning streak and the best bullpen ERA in the majors. But they blew two games in a row after leading by at least two runs in the eighth inning.
The Mets tried to rally again Wednesday, trimming it to 6-4 in the eighth on a pinch-hit single by Harris. Luke Gregerson, however, got out of the inning on Justin Turner's double-play grounder.
All-Star closer Heath Bell, who blew a save Monday night, worked a shaky ninth.
``We were just like, there's no way how it's going to happen three nights in a row,' Bell said. ``We kind of figure we have to be really good. We've got to be on our A game or we're not going to win.'
Venable doubled off Bobby Parnell in the ninth and scored on a single by Jesus Guzman, who later stole home as part of a double steal. Maybin also had an RBI groundout.
``We had some lapses on the mental side, which can't happen here,' Collins said.
New York began chipping away with Dickey's run-scoring single in the fourth, but left fielder Kyle Blanks threw out Tejada at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
Curiously, Tejada went in standing up as he tried to score on pinch-hitter Jason Pridie's flyout.
``That's just not accepted, I don't care what level you're at,' Collins said. ``I asked him, 'Why didn't you slide?' He just didn't know. He said he saw the catcher come off the plate and thought he could score. It was just a mistake there. And they come back at this level to hurt you.'
Wright doubled in the fifth, tying Ed Kranepool's franchise record with 2,047 total bases.
Tejada, filling in at shortstop for injured Jose Reyes, turned in a jaw-dropping play to end the sixth. Tejada went into the hole to backhand a grounder and quickly released a rocket of a jump-throw in mid air, easily getting Luis Martinez at first.
``You don't see that play that often when you throw the guy out by 10 feet,' Wright said.
NOTES: Thole matched his career high for hits. ... Padres LHP Cory Luebke faces 11-game winner Jonathon Niese in the finale of the four-game series Thursday, a 12:10 p.m. start. The Mets are offering half-price tickets for that game, just as they did Wednesday night, when attendance was 39,589. Across town, the Yankees drew a sellout crowd of 46,967 for their game against the Angels. ... Mike Baxter went 1 for 3 with two walks in his first major league start and was tested early and often in right field. Claimed off waivers from the Padres last month, Baxter grew up in Queens about 10 minutes from the Mets' home. He estimated he would have at least 50 friends and family members in the stands. ... Collins, fighting a bad cold, said reliever Manny Acosta might have X-rays on his sore right pinkie. Acosta was hit on his pitching hand by a soft liner Tuesday night, tearing a nail and knocking him out of the game.
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