NEW YORK -- Pitching, hitting, running the bases -- R.A. Dickey did it all for the New York Mets. The way their offense has sputtered this summer, he probably had to if he wanted a win.
Dickey flustered the Houston Astros with knuckleballs and foiled them with his bat, leading the Mets to a 5-1 victory on a crystal-clear Sunday at Citi Field.
"Incredible. He's going to go out and give you a quality start every time and that's what he's done," catcher Josh Thole said. "Unbelievable."
Thole homered and Dickey keyed a second-inning rally with a two-run single that helped New York end Bud Norris' four-game winning streak. The Mets took two of three from the Astros and haven't lost a series at home to Houston since 2002.
Luis Castillo added an RBI single and New York went 4-3 against the Astros the past two weeks in a season series marked by some strikingly inept offense on both sides.
Dickey (9-5), 35, yielded six hits in seven-plus innings, lowering his ERA to 2.57. He also had a pair of singles and scored once to aid his own cause.
"It seems like his knuckleball is getting better as the season goes along," Astros manager Brad Mills said.
Feeling fatigued, Dickey asked manager Jerry Manuel to let him face at least one batter in the eighth. The right-hander was pulled following Tommy Manzella's leadoff single and received a warm ovation from the crowd of 32,779.
"I think what's important is to learn from past experiences," Dickey said. "I just didn't want to jeopardize us by trying to be the hero."
Bobby Parnell induced a double-play grounder from No. 3 batter Hunter Pence, then gave up a single and a double before retiring Jason Michaels to end the inning.
Hisanori Takahashi worked a scoreless ninth.
"Every time I go out there I feel like I'm learning something new," Parnell said. "I love going out in the tight situations, getting the thrill of throwing in close games."
Houston had won six of seven and 11 of 16. The Astros finished 6-4 on this trip for their first winning road swing since June 29 to July 5, 2009.
A surprise bright spot for the Mets this season, Dickey is making a strong bid for a role in New York's rotation next year, too. He threw 75 of 108 pitches for strikes Sunday, again showing an uncanny ability to command his dancing knuckleball -- perhaps the most difficult pitch to master.
"His knuckleball's been outstanding. It's breaking so late," Thole said. "His 84 [mph] on his heater makes it seem like it's about 120 [mph] after 15 knuckleballs in a row."
Norris (6-8) entered 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in six starts since July 28, including a 3-2 victory over the Mets on Aug. 19 at home. Houston was unbeaten in those six games and the right-hander had gone at least six innings in all of them, but New York snapped that string.
David Wright drew a leadoff walk in the second and went to third on Ike Davis' double. A walk to Thole loaded the bases before Luis Hernandez struck out.
That brought up Dickey, who came into the game batting .171 with three RBI. He bounced a single up the middle to put the Mets in front.
"I know my limitations," Dickey said. "I'm usually just trying to punch the ball through the holes and not strike out. I was glad it found the hole."
Norris wanted to work Dickey away, so he moved second baseman Geoff Blum a few steps to his left, opening a large patch of terrain right where the pitcher hit the ball.
"I got myself into a little jam there in that inning and it was really my fault. I moved Blum out of position," Norris said. "I wanted a ground ball to second base for the double play, but I've got to give him credit. He got the ball up the middle. The pitch got more of the plate than I wanted."
Angel Pagan followed with an RBI groundout and Castillo dumped a run-scoring single into right-center. In the previous five games, New York was 4 for 34 (.118) with runners in scoring position.
Jason Castro doubled to start the third for Houston and scored from third on an infield single by Michael Bourn, who left in the eighth with a mild cramp in his left leg that's not considered serious.
Thole hit a solo shot in the sixth off a soda sign on the facing of the second deck in right, his second homer of the season.
"I wouldn't get used to that," Thole said.
Norris lasted 5 2/3 innings, only the second time an Astros starter failed to get through the sixth in the past 20 games. ... New York scored four runs in an inning for the first time this month. ... Hernandez, called up Friday from Triple-A Buffalo, made his first start for the Mets in place of ailing SS Jose Reyes (right oblique strain), who took some swings in the indoor cage but isn't ready to return. Still feeling a twinge, Reyes stopped after six cuts from the left side and said he won't even try to hit Monday, when the Mets open a four-game series in Atlanta.