Despite a frustrating, 12 inning 8-7 loss to Atlanta on getaway day, you’d think the Mets would have cause for optimism as they start a 10 game round trip in San Francisco tonight, right? Jerry Manuel’s charges were 6-2 on their most recent homestand, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine have provided solid efforts in the middle of the rotation and Carlos Beltran has on occasions — most notably Tuesday night — demonstrated the ability to put the team on his back.

Not so fast, my easily impressed friends. The Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch notes the Mets performed miserably in their only encounter thus far with an elite team (St. Louis), Carlos Delgado seems destined to play in pain or hit the DL, Jose Reyes’ lack of concentration can no longer be excused as youthful folly and perhaps most worrying, J.J. Putz (above) has flat out sucked.

The reliever came to the Mets with a deadly combination of 95 mph heat and a splitter that drops like it™s been shot out of the sky. But his radar-gun readings have been surprisingly tame of late “ more like 91-92 while the National League has moved closer to solving him.

Whereas Putz was striking out an average of 10.3 hitters per nine innings two year ago with the Mariners, he™s down to about four as a Met. Putz™s hits per inning ratio has also ballooned from his prime in 2007 “ 4.6 per nine innings to more than seven this season.

On Wednesday, Putz entered a tie game in the eighth, but needed just three batters to hand the Braves a 7-6 lead. Manuel later observed the Mets have seen only œflashes of Putz™s greatness and wondered if the right-hander™s participation in the World Baseball Classic has sabotaged his velocity.

Putz, however, has a different, more troubling theory. As he told WFAN earlier in the day, he™s finding it difficult to be Francisco Rodriguez™s setup man.

œYou really don™t have that heart-pounding sensation, Putz said of his eighth-inning responsibilities. œI think that™s where those two or three miles an hour are. That™s adrenaline.

I’ve read similar complaints from closers who’ve been demoted but fail to understand how Putz would be more successful with even less margin for error. If it’s a matter of putting the former Mariners reliever in the right frame of mind, Manuel and Dan Warthen should just tell him he’s entered the game in the 9th inning. This shouldn’t be hard to accomplish at home — Citi Field’s scoreboards are tough to follow from a variety of vantage points, and there’s often more fans in the expensive seats in the 8th inning than there are in the 9th.

(UPDATE  : The Post’s Bart Hubbach reports Putz’ struggles might have as much to do with an inflamed right elbow as the reliever’s mental state.   Of the Mets’ unwillingness to put either Putz or Delgado on the disabled list, MetsBlog’s Matthew Cerrone sighs, “thee Mets are playing one down in the bullpen and one down on the bench¦ i mean, why not repeatedly play with one arm tired behind your back?”  Good question.  Because the DL is reserved for seriously injured players like Oliver Perez?)