SAN FRANCISCO—The Mets got Carlos Beltran back last night, but also got shut out by Tim Lincecum. Coupled with the Braves win over the Brewers, the Mets find themselves five games out of first place, and seemingly headed in the wrong direction.

Examining the Jose Reyes situation, it’s eerily similar to last season’s debacle. Last season, Reyes had some “hamstring discomfort,” and was listed as day-to-day.

Coincidentally, on the West Coast in Los Angeles, Reyes attempted to play, tore his hamstring, and was never seen or heard from again.

Now, the Mets are saying that he has “oblique discomfort.” Reyes was listed as day-to-day, and played against the Braves on Saturday. Get the point?

Now, five days later, Reyes is still not fully healed. What can possibly keep a player out for almost a week, when they have “discomfort” somewhere?

The Mets had to take Reyes out of Saturday’s game after fielding a ground ball at shortstop. Not to say that Reyes will not play again this season, but is there something significantly wrong with his oblique that the Mets are covering up?

They said before last night’s game that he didn’t play because he still can’t bat left-handed. Being Tim Lincecum is a tough right-hander, as he ended up proving, the Mets didn’t want Reyes batting from the right side against him. They said he “will be in the lineup” tonight facing a left-hander in Barry Zito. If he isn’t, then the Mets have to seriously think of putting him on the disabled list.

The Mets have been flat on offense lately, and having Reyes out of the lineup makes things even worse.

One thing that has been going right for the Mets is Jon Niese, who pitches tonight. Niese’s last start was nine days ago on July 7, a loss to the Reds. The Mets had won each of his last six starts, before he allowed a big home run to Chris Heisey. Niese though, still pitched well, but the Mets got shut down to Bronson Arroyo.

Going for the Giants will be the rejuvenated Barry Zito. What a story it has been for the 2002 Cy Young Award winner, who went 23-5 that season for Oakland.

Zito was the big free agent in the offseason of 2006, and after discussions with the Mets, the former member of the Oakland Athletics signed on with the crosstown-rival Giants.

His first three seasons in San Francisco were horrendous. From 2007-2009, he went a combined 31-43, and looked like one of the biggest all-time busts.

This season though, he magically found his old form, and old 12-to-6 curveball. At one point earlier in the season, he was 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA.

He has been a little less dominant lately, and maybe tailing off just a bit. In his last start against Milwaukee, he threw 113 pitches in only 4.2 innings. The Giants won, 9-3, but he obviously fell one out short of a victory. He has given up four or more runs in four of his last 10 starts. His recent struggles have pushed his ERA to 3.76, a season-high.

If the Mets actually have Reyes back in the lineup tonight, maybe they can get something done, but if not, it may be another long night.

R.A. Dickey pitched well enough for a win last night, giving up one run in seven innings, and that wasn’t even good enough. So even if Niese pitches well, the Mets offense has to pick it up.

This is a big game for the Mets, and every game is seemingly getting bigger. The Mets aren’t winning at a pace they were in May and June, and the Braves keep on winning.

It’s time for the Mets to start playing winning baseball again, and they’ll hope to start a streak tonight.

Jon Niese this season (15 starts)
6-3, 3.61 ERA, 89.2 IP, 94 hits, 28 BB, 73 SO

Barry Zito vs. New York (career)
2-2, 4.28 ERA, 27.1 IP, 29 hits, 15 BB, 20 SO

2010 season series (New York vs. San Francisco)
May 7: New York 6, San Francisco 4
May 8: New York 5, San Francisco 4 (11)
May 9: San Francisco 6, New York 5

July 15: San Francisco 2, New York 0
Series tied 2-2

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