At the start of this season, there were no real expectations for the Marlins to make the playoffs after the embarrassment of 2015, when Miami was hailed as a World Series contender by some and then finished the season with a manager with no previous professional coaching experience.
Even so, the organization hired Don Mattingly, a skipper with consecutive playoff berths under his belt and would send big free agent signing Wei-Yin Chen and ace Jose Fernandez to the mound in the two game set against Detroit in Miami to start the 2016 campaign. It was reasonable to feel a sense of confidence, for two games at least.
However, both starters were disappointing, the bullpen blew the lead in the first game, and Jose Fernandez suffered his first ever defeat at Marlins Park as Miami fell in a quick 0-2 hole on the season. Same old Marlins then, right? Not as of late.
Despite losing last year’s team MVP Dee Gordon to an 80-game PED suspension, a seriously struggling (but now improving) Giancarlo Stanton, and a shaky back-end of the rotation, the team is riding the crest of a wave after taking three of four games from the MLB-leading Cubs and going six games over .500 for the first time since 2012.
The Marlins are now three games ahead of the Tigers in the standings, who have comparatively struggled recently. So it seems like momentum is in Miami’s favor, and that may be important as this series will be an indicator of how much this team has found its footing, improved, and gained confidence under the leadership of Don Mattingly.
It is obvious how much Jose Fernandez has improved since his first start of the season; he gave up five runs against the Tigers, and has given up five runs in the whole month of June, four of which were in one game. He is a major reason why this team would be hosting at least one playoff game in Miami if the season ended today.
Not enough praise can be given to Mattingly and his regime at this point in time. Although he led the Dodgers to three straight NL West titles, the Marlins were expected to be a .500 team in 2016. A lot can happen over the next 86 games, but the Marlins are in a great position coming into the All-Star break.
The Marlins are putting in some stellar performances this season, and the people of south Florida need to reward them with their support in the stands. Even though Miami is playing much better this year, attendance is down, and that doesn't make any sense.
If the Marlins can travel up to Detroit and reverse the disappointment from the start of the season, proving that the series against the Cubs was more about their talent than Chicago's slump and injury troubles, then there is no excuse not to go to Marlins Park and witness some inspiring baseball in Miami for the first time in 13 years.