The second half of the season didn't get off to as good a start as the New York Mets would have wanted, but three key players making their first appearances since the All-Star break will give the club reason for optimism.
Mike Pelfrey takes the mound for the Mets in the opener of a three-game series at the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, as Luis Castillo and Jose Reyes are expected to return from injuries.
Pelfrey (10-4, 3.58 ERA), who leads New York (49-43) in wins, had his scheduled start Saturday pushed back after he developed a stiff neck while on the plane to San Francisco two days prior.
The additional rest may benefit the right-hander, who has stumbled over the last month, going 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA over his last five starts. He failed to make it out of the fifth inning of his last three outings, and lasted a season-low four against Atlanta on July 10, allowing four runs and 12 hits in a 4-0 loss.
"I think any kind of break is good,' he told the Mets' official website. "Whether it's a day, three days, whatever. I think it's always well needed."
Pelfrey is 0-4 with a 5.22 ERA in five starts against the Diamondbacks, including a 7.16 ERA in three losses at Arizona.
Diamondbacks first baseman Adam LaRoche is 6 for 7 with two doubles and two walks against Pelfrey.
While Pelfrey returns to the mound looking for a fresh start, his teammates would probably like to start their second half over after losing three of four to San Francisco to drop five games behind the Braves for the NL East lead. The Mets avoided the sweep Sunday by salvaging the finale 4-3 in 10 innings - only their second win in eight games.
Ike Davis drove in the game-winner on a double in the top of the 10th and the Mets threw out the potential tying run at home plate, although replays showed the Giants' Travis Ishikawa appeared to be safe.
New York scored eight runs and batted .198 over the four games, getting shut out twice. David Wright went 3 for 15, though ht did hit a solo home run in Sunday's game.
The offense should get a lift from the return of two infielders. Castillo is expected to be activated from the disabled list to make his first start since suffering a bruised right heel June 1. The second baseman was hitting .241 in 44 games after batting .302 in 2009.
The Mets also said Castillo's double-play partner Reyes will return after missing five games with a sore right oblique.
While New York went 2-5 against Arizona (34-58) last year, the last-place Diamondbacks have lost four straight overall and 10 of 12. They got outscored 26-10 in a three-game sweep at NL West-leading San Diego over the weekend.
Arizona will try to stop its slide when it hands the ball to Ian Kennedy (4-7, 4.12), who snapped a personal eight-start winless streak in his final outing before the break. The right-hander gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-4 victory over Florida on July 10.
He has never faced the Mets.