Mets' midseason report card

Here are reasons for optimism:

The Mets get five-time All-Star Carlos Beltran back on Thursday.

They're within four games of first place after salvaging Sunday's series finale against the Atlanta Braves.

They're within striking distance despite getting only six home runs from Jason Bay in the first half -- paltry long-ball production that surely can't persist for a full season.

And the Mets have yet to play a game this season against National League doormats Pittsburgh (30-58), Arizona (34-55) and Houston (36-53). Meanwhile, division-leading Atlanta has played a combined 16 games against those opponents.

Still, the Mets have their issues, including an 18-24 road record (12-24 outside of Baltimore and Cleveland's boundaries). And they open up the second half with a three-city trip to San Francisco, Arizona and Los Angeles.

"The first half could have been better. But, on the flip side of that, it could have been worse," third baseman David Wright said. "We, as a team, had high expectations coming into this year. And I don't think we've quite lived up to the expectations we've had for ourselves so far.

"We're sitting in a position where we're going to be able to make a move in the second half and we're within striking distance. At the same time, I've felt like we gave some games away. There were times, especially on the road, where we didn't play the kind of baseball we were capable of. I think that needs to change in the second half."