SAN FRANCISCO - On the calendar, it was July 15, the start of the season's second half. But when Jerry Manuel first scribbled down a lineup for last night's game against the Giants and included both Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, it felt more like Christmas morning.
The joy, however, lasted roughly 20 minutes, which is how long it took for Manuel to discover that Reyes still was bothered by a strained right oblique and had to be scratched.
Manuel was asked if getting back Beltran without Reyes was like getting one toy and not the other on Christmas.
"No batteries might be the best way to explain that," he said, "and the stores are closed."
So the waiting on Reyes continued for Manuel and the Mets, but now there's no date to circle. And that frustration gave way to more disappointment as the Mets failed to dent Tim Lincecum in a 2-0 loss to the Giants.
Lincecum (10-4, 2.94), the reigning back-to-back Cy Young winner, allowed six hits in his first complete game this season. He walked one and struck out five for his first win in five career starts against the Mets.
R.A. Dickey (6-3) nearly matched zeroes with Lincecum but got tripped up in the second inning. With Buster Posey on third base after a single, groundout and wild pitch, Pablo Sandoval drilled a 2-and-2 fastball - not a knuckler - off the top of the high brick wall in rightfield.
That RBI double was the only real blemish on another great night for Dickey, who allowed five hits in seven innings and trimmed his ERA from 2.77 to 2.63.
The Giants added a run in the eighth. With one out, the bases loaded and Bobby Parnell on the mound, Posey grounded to Ike Davis, whose throw home was late. Travis Ishikawa then hit into a double play. Elmer Dessens had given up a pair of singles to start the inning and Pedro Feliciano walked Aubrey Huff.
While the Mets were deflated by Reyes' delay, Beltran boosted their spirits by shaking off a little rust and going 1-for-4. After a routine fly ball to centerfield that ended the first inning, Beltran rebounded in the fourth by slapping a 1-and-1 curveball into right for a single.
What came next was a bit surprising as Beltran, who didn't attempt a stolen base in 14 rehab games, bolted for second with Davis at the plate. Beltran got the right pitch to go - a breaking ball - but still was thrown out easily by Giants catcher Posey.
The Mets had few chances against Lincecum and he wriggled free of his biggest problem.
After a leadoff walk to Jason Bay in the fifth, Josh Thole's line-drive single skimmed the back of a ducking Lincecum before shooting into centerfield. Ruben Tejada's fly ball got Bay to third base with one out, but Dickey put a dent in the rally by bunting Thole to second rather than taking a shot at swinging away for a run. That set up Angel Pagan - the Mets' leading hitter - but he flied out to kill the threat.
As soon as Reyes told trainer Ray Ramirez yesterday that he still had discomfort, the team's medical staff instructed the shortstop to stay out of the lineup until he is pain-free in that area. Based on recent history, there's no way of telling when that might be.
If Reyes had been placed on the disabled list June 30 when he suffered the injury, it's likely that he could have been activated - and healthy - for the start of the second half.
Instead, the Mets had the switch-hitting Reyes come back in a limited capacity July 6 - batting only righthanded, even against righthanders - for a four-game stay that ended when he left Saturday's game after aggravating the injury.
"The first weeks, I had a lot of pain there," Reyes said. "It's getting better, but it's slow. The doctors, they don't want to take any chances. They want to be careful. They say when you're pain-free, you're going to be able to do anything on the field."