© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

07/11/10 4:46 PM ET

Beltran can give Mets golden touch in SF

The second half of the season commences with a crucial four-game series in San Francisco, where both the Mets and the Giants will try to establish themselves as serious contenders in the National League.

After a 2-4 homestand to conclude the first half of the season, the Mets will look to find their swing on the road with Carlos Beltran back to the lineup for Thursday's opener against the Giants. Manager Jerry Manuel, in fact, was so excited to put Beltran's name in the lineup that he announced the order for Thursday's game over the weekend. Beltran will bat fourth.

"I still see him as a presence," Manuel said. "And because of his history, he has to be respected. And for me, because of [Ike Davis'] struggles here lately, the best spot for Carlos would be right behind David Wright. That's kind of where I envision him being for the first couple days."

The center fielder has missed the first 88 games of the season after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason. Beltran has now missed 169 games over the past two seasons. The Mets, though, could use the offensive jolt Beltran should provide. A career .283 hitter, Beltran has averaged more than 25 home runs per season with the Mets despite the time he has missed.

Beltran's return creates a bit of a squeeze in the Mets' outfield, considering how well Angel Pagan has played in the All-Star's absence. If Manuel's early lineup for Thursday is to be any indication of how the second half of the season will play out, though, it will be Pagan in right field instead of the streaky Jeff Francoeur.

Pagan has entered the top 10 in the NL in hitting in the past week with his average up to .311.

It's also the start of a crucial 11-game road trip for the Mets, who are four games behind the Braves in the NL East.

The Giants, meanwhile, will enjoy their three days off for the All-Star break after a 20-games-in-20-days stretch that saw them drop to fourth in the NL West. Following a seven-game losing streak, the Giants have rebounded nicely with seven wins in their last nine games.

San Francisco hopes to ride the scalding bat of rookie Buster Posey. Posey had a remarkable first 10 days in July, with 19 hits, six home runs and 13 RBIs -- the most in each category by a NL rookie in a 10-game stretch.

He didn't hurt matters by going 1-for-3 on Sunday with two more RBIs. Posey's six homers and 15 RBIs in July are tops in the NL, and he's hitting an even .500 this month.

"I try not to have too many expectations, whether it's for a year, or for a week or for a day and just try to go out and play as hard as I can and let the results take care of themselves," Posey said.

Mets: Dickey getting short end of stick
Manuel has said in the past that he likes having R.A. Dickey start a series because he thinks it throws off the opposing team's hitters. It doesn't hurt that Dickey has been one of the NL's best hurlers since joining the Mets' rotation in May.

Dickey has allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts, and he's completed six innings in all but one. Even as the Mets have lost Dickey's last three starts, it hasn't really been his fault. Dickey does have a sour taste in his mouth from the ending of his last start against the Braves, when he gave up a pair of home runs in his last three pitches.

"I really feel like I threw the ball well up until the last three pitches of the game," Dickey said. "It felt like [I] got punched in the stomach, because I feel like I gave us a chance to win for a long time there, and it was unfortunate. With two outs, every run was scored."

Giants: First-half ERA speaks volumes of staff
San Francisco enters the All-Star break with the third-best ERA in the National League. Depth in the rotation has been the Giants' strength. The addition of Madison Bumgarner has given San Francisco a full complement of five pitchers with ERAs under 4.00. Including Sunday's win over the Nationals, Bumgarner has completed at least seven innings in all four of his starts this season.

Worth noting
The Giants are waiting to see how Tim Lincecum is used in Tuesday's All-Star Game before setting their rotation for the series with the Mets. ... As hot as Posey has been, Aubrey Huff has the most RBIs in the NL since June 10, with 28. ... The Giants will start the second half of the season with 18 games before a day off on Aug. 2. ... The Mets' win on Sunday ended a season-high three-game home losing streak. ... The Mets' 48 wins heading into the break are six more than last season. The club has now had 48 or more wins at the break four of the last five seasons.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.