The Miami Marlins have been on a winding road the entire season, and it doesn’t seem to be straightening up down the MLB’s homestretch. With a win Friday night over the Colorado Rockies, the Marlins had worked themselves above .500 for the first time this summer, at 64-63, four games back in the win column of the San Francisco Giants in the NL Wild Card chase – and nine back from the division leading Washington Nationals. After Saturday’s loss, they’re back at 64-64, 10 back in the division and four back in the wild card.
The game against the Rockies marked the first game of a nine game, three city road trip that could very well depict how the rest of the year plays out for the young guns from South Beach.
Statistically, the Marlins are right in the middle of the pack. Where they have begun to separate themselves is in situational hitting. Since July 20th, only five of the team’s wins has been decided by more than two runs, six counting Friday. Over that same span, they have won ten games by just one run.
Speaking of situational hitters, Giancarlo Stanton is right in the mix. Stanton, who is leading the Marlins in pretty much every statistical category apart from hits (Casey McGehee got hot for a while), is hitting .314 with runners in position, .317 with runners in position and two outs, and .400 when the bases are loaded — talk about timely hits.
The Marlins found themselves seven games under .500 in July, but began to turn it on late in the month, and the switch has stayed in that position through August, especially offensively. The Marlins are 19-10 since July 20th. Left fielder Christian Yelich has played a large part in that, batting .368 in the month of August with 28 hits.
The Marlins may not have the depth in the bottom of their lineup nor in the pitching rotation to make legitimate moves in the playoffs, but it is certainly not beyond their reach to make moves in September to shake up the NL wild card chase, but if they want that opportunity, it starts with their current series with the Rockies and extends throughout the grueling nine game road trip which includes three games each in Colorado, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
The Rockies series is massive because of this reason: the Marlins should win it. Miami routed Colorado Friday 13-5, but need both wins in this series — in part because realistically there are some losses coming their way in the next few series. Their 5-4 loss in 13 innings on Saturday could loom large down the stretch. Also, San Francisco, who is currently holding that second wildcard spot, has to deal with the Nationals this weekend. Odds are Washington will steal at least one of the two games remaining in that series, which would help Miami close that gap.
After Colorado come the real tests, and that starts with the Los Angeles Angels. No one expects Miami to go in and win this series against what is probably the best team in baseball, but they can’t get swept. Stealing a game (two would be ideal, but we are being realistic) would keep Miami in contention undoubtedly. It won’t be easy, but it’s plausible – and it would set up a huge series the following three days with the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta is currently only one game back of the Giants for that previously mentioned second spot, which provides Miami another terrific opportunity to not only close the gap, but potentially jump a team in the standings. Winning this series would throw the Marlins right back in the race. The road gets a bit lighter after Atlanta, five of the last eight series for Miami will be against teams with losing records and pretty much out of any playoff races — two with the Mets and Phillies.
That said, there is also another with Atlanta and two with the Nationals, but let’s cross that bridge when/if we get to it.
If Friday night is any indication, things will be tight down the stretch. Miami tied their second highest run total of the season with 13 scored, the highest post-all break. Henderson Alvarez, who will play a crucial role in the pitching staff down the stretch recorded his 10th win on the season, fourth consecutive win. When he goes at least 6 innings, he is 10-0 on the year.
Heads up to the National League, Miami hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.