Johan Santana led the Mets to victory on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves, avoiding a sweep. Santana pitched seven shutout innings while giving up five hits and three walks. The Mets now go into the All-Star break trailing the Braves by four games in the National League East. The break is just what the Mets need right now after losing their last two series.
Looking past the break, there are several key issues the team has to deal with in order for the Mets to have success in the second half of the season.
One thing to keep an eye on will be Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod will have to really step his game up in order for the Mets to have a real shot at a playoff run. Even though he only had four blown saves out of twenty five opportunities, K-Rod seems to always make things interesting by putting men on base and sometimes driving fans crazy with his pitch selection.
Another thing to look for will be the return of center fielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran is scheduled to join the Mets in San Francisco on Thursday night. Manager Jerry Manuel has already said he will not push Beltran too hard by putting him in the lineup every day immediately.
The final element to keep an eye on will be the team’s chemistry . Before the game on Sunday Jerry Manuel and Jeff Francouer had a discussion about playing time. Francouer will start the Giants series on the bench in order to keep the red hot Angel Pagan in the lineup.
Francouer has admitted that this will be a different role for him but understands that Pagan has to keep getting playing time because of the way he has been hitting of late. It remains to be seen how the Mets outfield will shape up once Beltran is back to 100 percent.
The Mets have an 11-game road trip out to the West Coast to open the second half. They go to San Francisco on Thursday for a four-game series and then it’s off to Arizona for three games with the Diamondbacks and then Los Angeles to face Joe Torre’s Dodgers in a four-game series.
That's not exactly a smooth transition after vacation. The Mets will probably be happy splitting the two four game series and just try to get back to Citi Field where they have been dominant this season.
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