As the Mets sit at 26-21, they are admirably exceeding expectations and staying afloat the standings in the cutthroat NL East.

However, if they want to keep it up, they are going to need to ramp up their offense and the return of Josh Thole (concussion), Ruben Tejada (quad strain) and Jason Bay (fractured ribs) can’t come soon enough.

Did you see the lineup the Mets trotted out for Thursday’s game? When you have to play the likes of Vinny Rottino, Rob Johnson, Ronny Cedeno and Scott Hairston more than you should, eventually it will catch up with you.

Prior to the season, almost everyone and their grandmother said that the Mets would go as far as their pitching could take them as most were confident in the offense. Well, almost two months into the season it has been the pitching that is carrying the Mets, as the Mets work through their offensive struggles.

As of May 25, the Mets were eighth in the NL in runs scored despite being fifth in batting average. Their main problem, however, has been their lack of power, as the Mets sit just second to last in the NL in home runs. Of course this is mainly attributed to the starts that Ike Davis and Lucas Duda (at least from a power perspective) are off to. Saturday’s three home run outing is a step in the right direction.

The return of Thole, Tejada and Bay will lessen the load for guys like David Wright, who is carrying the club right now with his fantastic start. The aforementioned trio are in the early stages of their rehabilitation, and should be back within the next few weeks. Therefore, it is imperative that the Mets capitalize on this 11-game homestand and hold their ground in the standings.

After their homestand is done, the schedule will get mighty difficult with trips to Washington and interleague road games at the Yankees and the Rays on the horizon. It would be good if the Mets could get back any, if not all, of the injured players for that road trip.

While it’s admirable the contributions that guys like Cedeno and Hairston give this club, there is a reason they are bench players.

While Bay can be boom or bust, Thole and Tejada were off to fine starts.

You might have forgotten, but prior to their injuries, Thole had a .284/.356/.370 slash line, whereas Tejada had a .305/.342/.400 slash line. As the Mets have found out, that is hard to replace.

How many more four-hit shutouts can we get from Johan Santana?

The Mets are getting by being competitive in close games, but as everyone has pointed out ad nauseum, they are a dreadful 27th in run differential. Most suggest that discrepancy will catch up with the Mets, thus making the return of Thole, Tejada and Bay crucial to the Mets’ future success.

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