By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The New York Mets' bullpen is costing them, and the Cincinnati Reds would like to continue capitalizing on it.
Coming off another defeat due to their ineffective relievers, the Mets will look for another dominant home outing from R.A. Dickey on Thursday as they try to split this two-game set with the Reds.
New York (20-17) has one of the worst bullpens in baseball with a 5.05 ERA, but the relievers have been much worse lately. They've combined to surrender 20 runs in 19 2-3 innings while blowing four of five save chances and allowing opponents to hit .329 with four homers during a 3-4 stretch.
The Mets paid the price again Wednesday, as the bullpen wasted a strong effort from Johan Santana by giving up four runs in the eighth inning en route to a 6-3 loss to Cincinnati (19-17). Jon Rauch was charged with three of those, while D.J. Carrasco served up a two-run homer to Todd Frazier.
Carrasco, who had a 7.36 ERA in four games, was designated for assignment.
The bullpen issues are coming at a time when closer Frank Francisco has gone 0-2 while allowing six runs in 1 2-3 innings over his last three games.
"We're in New York and Yogi Berra said if you ain't got a bullpen you ain't got nothing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Yogi was right, big time. You've got to have a bullpen."
Dickey (5-1, 3.65 ERA) hasn't needed very much from the bullpen at Citi Field, where he's won all three starts with a 1.71 ERA while opponents have hit .167.
Overall, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his last four starts.
Dickey battled through six innings Saturday, allowing two runs and a season high-tying nine hits in a 9-3 win at Miami. He helped himself in unconventional fashion, getting his first RBI of the season when he was hit in the wrist by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth.
"It was a real fight," Dickey said. "I threw a lot of real tumbleweeds up there, balls that were kind of over-rotating on me."
The knuckleballer's only meeting with the Reds came on the road July 25, when he allowed two runs and eight hits with seven strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 victory.
While the Mets have dropped three of four, Cincinnati is looking to make it four wins in five before its road trip shifts to the Bronx on Friday.
Frazier, a native of Point Pleasant, N.J., who went to Rutgers, had two homers in the series opener to snap out of a 3-for-19 funk over the previous six contests.
The Reds will turn to Mat Latos (2-2, 4.54), who is 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 24 1-3 innings over his last four starts. The right-hander has given up one or no runs in three of them, including Saturday's 2-1 loss to Washington.
Latos allowed one run and three hits, but a season-high five walks and 109 pitches led to his exit after five innings.
"Those middle innings are when he's had the high-pitch-count innings most of the year," Baker told the team's official website. "He seems to lose the strike zone."
Latos is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA while fanning 21 in 18 innings over three starts against the Mets. The loss came in his most recent visit to Citi Field with San Diego on Aug. 17, 2011, when the only runs he gave up in six innings came courtesy of a three-run blast from David Wright.
Updated May 17, 2012