Sweep of Subway Series highlights Mets' first half

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins isn't one to put modest expectations on his team. As strong an achievement as a .500 record would be for the team this season, he isn't forthright to set that as the goal.

But Collins realizes just why people wonder if it is. More than halfway through the season, New York sits just nine games below .500.

"We went into last year, people thought we were going to lose 100 games. We came into this year -- we were even supposed to be worse than last year," Collins said. "I think if you finish, look up and you're 81-81, that's ... an achievement."

It could have seemed unattainable even last month. On June 15, the Mets sat at just 24-39, a season-worst 15 games below .500. But since the start of July, New York has been reinvigorated.

The Mets split a four-game set with the National League West-leading D-backs to start the month, and then took two of three from the Brewers before sweeping the defending World Series champion Giants and ending the first half with a win over the 56-win Pirates. A 6-3 road trip to end the first half has put the Mets closer to .500 with 71 games to play.

It's never been the play on the road that's been the issue for New York, though. The Mets are 24-23 on the road, the third-best record in the NL, and their 123 runs since Father's Day are the most in the league. To make that push at .500, they need to defend their home field.

During the All-Star Game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy came to a realization about Citi Field. As he managed his NL squad to a shutout loss, he realized what Collins has known for some time.

"This is a tough place to score," Bochy said to Collins, who was on the NL All-Star staff.

"Really?" Collins responded, with his usual tinge of sarcasm.

With a suddenly potent offense that doesn't play well in the style its own park lends itself to, it's caused some trouble.

"If you're going to score big runs here, you've got to have some power," Collins said. "As we saw earlier in the first half, when we hit the ball out of the ballpark, we've won games here. If you don't have power, you'd better be athletic. That means you've better be able to run. That's the one thing we think we've made improvements on."

With first baseman Ike Davis struggling and Lucas Duda injured, New York has been without its two most powerful bats for extended stretches, and with just 16 home runs between them, they haven't done much when in the lineup. The Mets have needed to find other ways to score.

The Mets added Eric Young in a trade with the Rockies on June 19, and he's since become a staple in the outfield. In his month with the team, he's started all 25 games in either left or center field, and batted .308 with eight stolen bases and 17 runs scored entering Friday.

"That should help us here," Collins said. "Now we've got guys that can score on a single. We don't have to just hit home runs."

Collins isn't so worried about this year, though, as much as he is about next year and the years after that. This year is still about making sure the young guys are prepared for next season.

Still, .500 would undoubtedly mean something -- maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but as a short-term step. He still likes to think loftier, but those are goals for the future.

"The only thing I want to make sure is that we can compete and we get those younger players better," Collins said. "That's what's going to make 2014 be a fun year."

Mets will look for spots to give Wright rest

HRD Rd1: Wright drills five homers in Home Run Derby

NEW YORK -- After a grueling end to the first half, most of the Mets had four days off to be away from the ballpark and relax. But David Wright only had two of those days since he played in both the Chevrolet Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game.

The Mets are hoping those two days were enough to get some rest, but manager Terry Collins said Wright's playing time will be monitored in the second half.

"He is tired, make no mistake about it," Collins said. "Those two days might have rekindled some energy. But I think in the second half, we've got to take a look at it."

Having to be back on the field after an abbreviated All-Star break isn't helped by the fact that New York will play in scorching hot temperatures for much of this weekend. Collins said both Friday and Saturday will be "taxing."

The Mets held a team workout at Citi Field on Thursday, but Collins said he told Wright he didn't need to be there.

Going forward, Collins said he'll need to make sure he spots both Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy a day off every so often in the second half. Wright played in 90 of the team's 91 games in the first half, while Murphy played in all 91.

The Mets' schedule heading into the All-Star break was a gauntlet, and it isn't much easier to start the second half. With a doubleheader next Friday in Washington, New York has another loaded stretch of games.

"We've got 18 games in the next 17 days," Collins said, "so we've got to certainly make sure there's some rest time in there."

Turner likely to return from disabled list Monday

WSH@NYM: Turner's single drives in two in the fourth

NEW YORK -- Justin Turner is likely to return to the Mets for the start of their series against the Braves on Monday, manager Terry Collins said Friday.

Because New York had to use its relievers so much toward the end of the first half, the team wanted to make sure it had a stocked bullpen for this weekend's series against Philadelphia. Collins said the Mets are going to assess where they are pitching-wise at the end of this weekend, and will make a decision from there.

But it's more likely, he said, that Turner, who's been on the disabled list since June 18 with a left intercostal strain, will come back on Monday rather than join the team this weekend.

"We wanted to protect ourselves first coming out of the break," Collins said. "We have run out of pitching so much. We've worn our bullpen down so bad."

Turner's played six rehab games, going 6-for-20 at the plate. He played nine innings at shortstop for Double-A Binghamton on Wednesday night. Collins said he also wants to see Turner get some more at-bats before he's activated from the DL.

While Turner's close to coming back, outfielder Lucas Duda's future isn't as clear. Duda's been on the DL since June 23 with the same injury as Turner. Collins said Friday that Duda is starting to hit, and long-range plans regarding what level he'll play at once he is healthy have not been discussed.

Worth noting

Terry Collins said left-hander Jon Niese, who's been on the disabled list since June 21 with a partial tear of his rotator cuff, is close to getting back on a mound. He's still long tossing, and Collins said Niese has to throw from 150 feet before he pitches off a mound.