While each fan base comes into the MLB season with much hope and optimism, I do not believe many Marlins fans thought their team would be competing up until the very last week of the 2023 season.
As the dog days of summer have concluded and we inch ever closer to the Fall Classic, it’s this part of the year where each team needs to go out and give it their all if they hope to make it into the playoffs. For a team that is likely considered the underdog, the Miami Marlins might actually have the “easiest” path to winning one of the final Wild Card spots in the National League.
Entering September 26, here are how the National League Wild Card standings currently sit:
While the Phillies have their spot all but locked away, there is a six-team race for the final two spots to represent the NL Wild Card. Arizona, Chicago (NL), Miami, Cincinnati, San Francisco, and, believe it or not, Josh Hader, even the San Diego Padres are all still contending.
While the Marlins might be the least healthy of the bunch, their remaining strength of schedule gives them the upper hand in this battle for the final spot. In the last week of the season, they will be playing three games against their NL East-rival New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For a team like Cincinnati, who took the baseball world by storm when Elly De La Cruz made his debut, their recent series loss against the Pirates likely has them with the Giants and Padres as long shots to make the playoffs, barring a total collapse by two of the three teams ahead of them.
The Cubs are entering a final stretch where they will face off against the Braves for three games and then the Brewers to finish off the year. While the Brewers have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, and they are likely looking to save their starting pitching, you have to believe they would love to play spoiler against their division foe.
Arizona is entering a three-game series against the White Sox, where they should be able to take advantage, but then they finish off against the Astros, who are also fighting for their playoff lives in the AL Wild Card and the AL West.
So, where do the Marlins ACTUALLY stand in this race?
At this point in the season, for those teams who have been eliminated, you can throw their record out. Those teams that are no longer in contention are actually playing for something. That something? Spoiler.
While the Marlins are fighting for their playoff lives against two of those teams, and have usually found themselves on the other side, the Mets’ fan base would love nothing more than for their team to pay the Fish back for all the times they spoiled the Mets’ playoff chances in late-season matchups. Even dating back to the Shea Stadium days, the Marlins have been causing heartbreak amongst Mets fans when they were eventually eliminated from the playoffs at the hands of the Marlins.
For the Pirates, they’re coming off a series in which they had an incredible comeback against the Reds at Great American Ballpark. That victory over a division rival is sure to have them fired up. It’s because of the collapse in that series that Cincinnati is now fighting an uphill battle to make it into the playoffs – that and the fact that the Marlins own the tiebreaker over the Reds.
No matter how this season ends, Kim Ng deserves to be commended for the moves she made in order to put this team in the position it’s in. That all begins with the hiring of Skip Schumaker, which deserves more attention than it’s currently getting. She also made notable additions such as A.J. Puk, David Robertson, Josh Bell, and Matt Moore in order to ensure this team had the best chance to win. While some of those moves have not worked out the way she anticipated, the contributions from one to 26 need to be acknowledged.
Unfortunately, the Marlins are heading into their biggest battle without their ace, Sandy Alcantara, who is not going to return this season, and their baby goat, Eury Pérez, after he recently went on the IL with a back injury. Luis Arraez is also dealing with an injury he sustained during the last series against Milwaukee.
The cards are stacked against them, but, at the end of the day, the Marlins have the pieces in place to continue to fight each day to prove they are worthy of a postseason berth in a full season. They have a clear path to a Wild Card berth, but the question remains: Can they take it?