The Miami Marlins “Wild” Card Race

Photo by Danis Sosa

It has been 20 years since the Miami Marlins, then called Florida Marlins, hoisted their second World Series trophy. Since the Fish won it all in Yankee Stadium in 2003, the franchise only has five winning seasons to their name and one post-season appearance.

Many will argue that there is an asterisk for their lone playoff run due to the 2020 COVID season. The season was shortened to 60 games and the Marlins greatly benefited from the seven-inning contests. Miami finished the season with a 31-29 record, earned a Wild Card spot, and even won their Wild Card series against the Chicago Cubs. It was a fun and bright moment in what was a dark time for sports and the country in general.

If you’re one of those fans who disregard the 2020 season, then the last winning season Miami had was in 2009! That means that the Marlins have never finished a 162-game season above .500 since they became the “Miami” Marlins back in 2012. A new name, logo, and stadium surrounded by a decade of losing… until now.

Took You Long Enough

The 2023 Marlins have already recorded their best season since they transitioned from Florida to Miami. They are currently 79-73 and only half a game behind the Cubs for the final Wild Card spot with 10 games left in the season. They can even land in the second Wild Card spot trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks by only one game.

If you have followed the team from the start of the year, it is hard to tell if Miami has been underperforming or overperforming after the roller coaster of a season they have gone through. It started off on such a high note with a 53-39 record at the All-Star Break, the best record in franchise history entering the midsummer classic.

Immediately after the break, their season took a deep plunge. The Marlins lost the first eight games in a row coming out of the break and finished the last 15 games of July with a 4-11 record. August didn’t get any prettier for Miami going 3-7 through the first 10 games of the month.

Two losing stretches like that can bury a team’s season and it has happened with this franchise in the past. This team is different, however, showing resiliency with someone different stepping up each game.

New Faces

The trade acquisitions of Josh Bell and Jake Burger brought new life to the franchise. They addressed the team’s need for depth and power in the lineup. Each has played 44 games for the Marlins and has delivered. Bell has belted nine home runs with 19 RBIs while Burger is hitting .310 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs.

Compared to last season, minor leaguers that are called up are actually contributing like Jonathan Davis, Dane Myers, and Xavier Edwards. The key call-up was top pitching prospect Eury Perez. The 20-year-old has been nothing short of brilliant in his young MLB career. The right-hander has made 18 starts posting a 5-5 record with a solid 3.08 ERA. Their contributions might not seem immense but in a 162-game season, teams need players like them for the long haul. Especially when key players go down with an injury.

2022 All-Star, Jazz Chisholm Jr., has only played in 88 games due to several stints on the IL. Their ace and last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Sandy Alcantara, is having a down season, to say the least, and is currently on the 15-day IL.

Trevor Rogers only made four starts before being shut down for the season. At one point in the season, Edward Cabrera went down to the minors to work on command issues. Avisail Garcia has been out for more than half the season and when healthy has been one of the worst hitters statistically in baseball. Their offseason pitching acquisition of Johnny Cueto has completely backfired. The 37-year-old veteran made nine starts and is being shelled when he is on the mound posting a 6.20 ERA.

The Road Ahead

After the Marlins conclude their series against the New York Mets today, Miami will have nine remaining games. The final stretch kicks off with a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers for the home series finale. The Fish will finish the regular season on the road starting with three games against the Mets and wrap up the 2023 season against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the last three.

The Marlins will need to win every series from this point on if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. The magic number might be seven wins but nothing is far from certain. Miami isn’t the only team in the National League that is still in the Wild Card hunt. Behind Miami are the Cincinnati Reds only half a game behind and the San Fransisco Giants are two and a half games back. Miami is in a weird position in that they obviously have to win but with so many teams still in the race, they have to rely on a lot of teams to lose.

Through all the ups and downs. and the laundry list of players injured, it is somewhat miraculous to see the Marlins in this position. Things will be very interesting in the final two weeks of the season but for once it is nice to see meaningful baseball played in September for the Miami Marlins. Next time, let’s not wait 20 years for another moment like this.

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