With under two months remaining in the 2017 regular season, the playoff picture around the MLB is nearly set. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals have all but clinched their respective divisions, each leading by over 11 games, while the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are poised to hold on and clinch a ticket to the postseason as well.
The four Wild Card positions, on the other hand, are still very much up for grabs. Four National League teams sit in striking distance under the all-important double digit mark in games behind. One of those teams happens to be scorching hot, and I’m not just talking about the summer South Beach heatwave… It’s time to be bold. It’s time to talk about a Miami Marlins playoff run.
As of Monday night, the Miami Marlins (57-60) are 8.5 games back from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies for a Wild Card playoff spot in the NL. On paper, 8.5 games may seem like a lot, but as we’ve seen in the past, all it takes is a streaky run to make up that kind of ground down the stretch. The Marlins happen to be on a tear.
Winners of six of their last nine, Miami is firing on all cylinders. This is a team that hasn’t been at or above the .500 mark since April 7, when their record was a mere 10-10. Now, however, only three games under .500, the Marlins have won five of their last seven series and are coming off a sweep of the Colorado Rockies, the very team they’re chasing.
Regardless of their recent surge, it’s no secret that it would take nothing short of a miracle, “Moneyball”-esque run for the Marlins to catch Colorado or Arizona in the next seven weeks. Although, there’s one caveat – his name is Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton had a great July, heck, an amazing July. He homered 12 times in the calendar month and woke up August 1 with 33 round trippers and 73 runs batted in to his name. Fast forward to Monday and Stanton is now on pace to have one of the best offensive seasons from a power standpoint since the steroid era.
Let this sink in. Stanton has homered in each of his last five games. In his last 11, Stanton has homered 10 times. In his last 34, he’s homered 22 times. According to Sports illustrated, if Stanton were able to sustain his current pace for an entire 162 game season, he’d hit 106 homeruns.
He’s got a legitimate chance at reaching 60 homeruns before this season is over and it’s safe to say that he’s earning more and more NL MVP votes with each majestic big-fly.
Okay, enough about the personal accolades. This is a team sport and it’s not like Giancarlo Stanton can singlehandedly carry a team to the post season, right?
The truth is that having a presence like Stanton in the lineup can have an influence so potent that it can tilt each and every contest in Miami’s favor. Think about how teams pitched to Barry Bonds for example: Bonds was so dangerous that teams were willing to walk him with the bases loaded, surrendering one run instead of a mere chance at four.
Maybe Stanton isn’t at that level just yet, but with Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna hitting directly behind Stanton, pitchers these days are hard pressed to find an easy out in the middle of the Marlins’ order.
What’s more is that the Marlins are having fun. From walk-off wins, to stellar pitching performances from under the radar hurlers like Vance Worley and Jose Urena, this is a team that’s embraced their star’s hot streak and turned it into a communal one. Turn on a Marlins game nowadays and you’ll see smiles, laughter and success.
Baseball is a game of mentality – if you’re too focused on your last at-bat when you struck out on three pitches, it’ll carry over to the next one, snowballing into a slump. But with a guy like Stanton providing such a spark every day, the Marlins can forget about the past and focus on how to support Stanton and ride the wave into the win column.
Now, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, it’s important to recognize that the remainder of Miami’s offensive attack is a bit banged up. Justin Bour is still on the shelf with a nagging oblique, Martin Prado has been out seemingly for the entire season and let’s be honest, Giancarlo Stanton has to cool down at least a little bit moving forward.
But if you look at the Marlins’ remaining schedule, I believe this team has a legitimate chance at continuing their hot stretch. In Miami’s next 11 series, eight will be against sub .500 teams, before showdowns with the Diamondbacks and Rockies to end September. It’s in those six games where the Marlins have a perfect opportunity to make up plenty of ground in the standings right before the end of the season.
Besides, what better way to usher in new owner Derek Jeter than with a playoff run?
So, it’s a long shot, I get it, but do me a favor and don’t be too surprised when the Marlins are three games out with a couple weeks to go.
Then, I’ll get to say I told you so.
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