On the very last day of the first half, the Mets were already talking about a second-half surge.
They had good reason. Johan Santana tossed another gem in the Mets’ 3-0 win over the NL?East-leading Braves, and Carlos Beltran was cleared to play after the All-Star break.
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“I’m ready to go,” said Beltran, who will be in the lineup Thursday in San Francisco for the start of an 11-game West Coast road trip. “I swung the bat well [in rehab]. At the big league level is a different story. I do feel like I need to make adjustments. It will take time. I don’t expect to come here and rake. I expect to come here and do my part. I believe that.”
Beltran, who missed the entire first half after surgery on his right knee, will bat cleanup and play center field. That leaves Jeff Francoeur, rather than Angel Pagan, as the odd man out. That is a change in philosophy from what manager Jerry Manuel said three weeks ago. Pagan was going to “swing” between the three outfield spots. However, Pagan has been the Mets best outfielder this season.
Manuel acknowledged he has four players for three positions but needs all of them if the Mets are to reach postseason for the first time since 2006.
“I’m going to try to split that time up. But if we [get to] the World Series and face four right-handers, I’m still going to have to find time for Francoeur, find time to give Beltran a day off,” Manuel said.
Santana, meanwhile, will take a few days off over the break after allowing five hits and throwing five strikeouts in seven innings yesterday. The ace improved to 2-0 with a 0.13 ERA in July.
“Hopefully, this second half will be a strong one,” Santana said.