Knuckled under: D-backs lose 3-1 to Mets & Dickey

Batter after batter walked up to the plate, swung lamely at R.A. Dickey's pitches and returned to the dugout.

Basically, the Arizona Diamondbacks knuckled under.

"He threw strikes. He had the counts. He pitched the way he wanted to pitch," Arizona second baseman John McDonald said after Sunday's 3-1 loss to the New York Mets. "He throws them in a lot of different directions."

Dickey took a shutout into the ninth inning and combined with a pair of relievers on a four-hitter, sending the Diamondbacks to their second loss in the three-game series.

Arizona went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position in the game and 3 for 28 (.107) in the series, dropping to .221 on the season.

"They out-executed us," manager Kirk Gibson said.

After the game, the Diamondbacks headed home from a 5-5 trip that left them below .500 at 14-15. Not too long after this time last year, Arizona went on an 18-4 spurt that moved the Diamondbacks into the NL West lead.

So far this season, the Diamondbacks are 2-12 when scoring fewer than five runs, 12-3 when plating five or more. Noting his team was 4-10 in one-run games, Gibson said he might have to do some climbing for inspiration on Monday before a night game against St. Louis.

"What's the key for us to catch fire?" he said. "I guess that's for me to lay awake tonight and figure out, isn't it? Maybe at Camelback early tomorrow. Maybe I'll figure it out there, at the top of Camelback tomorrow. ... I've had some really good revelations up there, no question about it. ... It's just a better environment than sitting in your bed, looking at the ceiling."

Dickey (4-1) allowed four hits, struck out four and walked four. His socks pulled high in the old style, Dickey retired his first 10 batters before giving up an opposite-field double off the end of the bat to Gerardo Parra, a ball that dropped just fair and a few inches from the glove of sliding left fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

"That thing was dancing was all over the place," said Daniel Murphy, who put the Mets ahead with a two-run single in the first off Trevor Cahill (2-3).

Dickey didn't allow a leadoff batter to reach until Cody Ransom grounded a single to left in the eighth.

"That thing was nasty today," said Justin Turner, who took over at shortstop after Ruben Tejada strained his quadriceps.

After walking Parra starting the ninth, Justin Upton followed with an RBI double that chased Dickey after 117 pitches, his most since August 2010.

Once Dickey left, Jason Kubel flied out to the left-field warning track against Tim Byrdak. Frank Francisco struck out Paul Goldschmidt in a nine-pitch at-bat and Miguel Montero flied out to the right-field warning track, giving Francisco his seventh save in eight chances.

Celebrating his 25th birthday, Parra had two of the Diamondbacks' hits but was picked off by Dickey ending the sixth.

Gibson called the knuckler "maybe a cross between playing regular baseball and slo-pitch softball."

"I remember when I first faced Charlie Hough, somebody said move up in the box," Gibson recalled. "So I went up and scratched the front line of the box out, and moved up there, and he hit me."

Cahill allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings. Two pitches got him in trouble, both off fastballs with two outs: Murphy's single in the first and Josh Thole's RBI single in the fourth.

"I don't think I was as sharp as my last start," Cahill said, "Hopefully going home we can restart this."

NOTES: Joe Saunders (2-1 with a 1.24 ERA) starts for the Diamondbacks on Monday against the Cardinals' Lance Lynn (5-0, 1.60).