The Marlins are fading and September is right around the corner. That is not a good combination. Through August 30, Miami is sporting a 67-65 record, sitting 3.5 games back of the NL second wild card spot, with two other teams between them and the Cardinals.
Many people want to know how legitimate Miami’s playoff chances are, so I’ll take a look at the September (and October) opponents for the Marlins and how they stack up against the fish.
Cleveland Indians 75-56 (Sep. 2-4 @ Progressive Field)
The Indians are arguably the best team left on the Marlins schedule. They have held a comfortable lead in the AL Central for most of the season, and have looked like a very complete team. The Indians rank second in the AL with a 3.81 team ERA, which won’t bear well for a Marlins team that is averaging 1.5 runs in its last four games. The three games will be played in Cleveland, where the Indians hold a 41-23 record on the season. The Marlins may struggle to win this series, especially since they will face Carlos Carrasco (3.23 ERA) and Trevor Bauer (3.73 ERA), so they will need to at least win one of three.
Philadelphia Phillies 60-72 (Sep. 5-7 @ Marlins Park, Sep. 16-18 @ Citizen’s Bank Park)
The Phillies are obviously not living up to their great start (26-21 through May 25), and are only 4-9 in their last 13 games, so the Marlins need to capitalize in both of these series. Unfortunately, Miami has struggled some against the Phillies, winning only 7 of 13 against Philadelphia so far this season. The Marlins will need to hit the Phillies’ subpar pitching, which ranks 25th in the league in team ERA. The Phillies also rank dead last in the league in runs, so it’s time for Miami to step it up against Philadelphia. The Marlins should take four of these six games, and may need to take five to stay in the playoff race.
Los Angeles Dodgers 73-58 (Sep. 9-11 @ Marlins Park)
It seems like the Dodgers have sent about 45 starting pitchers to the DL, including Clayton Kershaw, but have still figured out a way to take back first place in the NL West. They have somehow managed to still post the 5th best team ERA in the league at 3.77 without the best pitcher in baseball taking the mound for a large chunk of the season. The pitching has been helped greatly by the Dodgers defense, which has only committed 58 errors, the least in baseball. The Marlins may struggle to score runs, so they will half to hold the Dodgers offense, which ranks only 22nd in the league in batting average, to a minimum. Miami will need to take two of these three games.
Atlanta Braves 49-83 (Sep. 12-14 @ Turner Field, Sep 22-25 @ Marlins Park)
Okay Miami, it’s time to start beating up on the Braves. In 2016, the Marlins are only 4-8 against arguably the worst team in baseball. That record should be 8-4, which would put the fish in a much better position. The Braves rank 29th in runs scored and 26th in team ERA, which means they should be beaten most of the time. This one should be simple, the Marlins need to win five of these six games, and maybe should win all six.
Washington Nationals 77-55 (Sep. 19-21 @ Marlins Park, Sep. 30-Oct. 2 @ Nationals Park)
Although the Marlins have struggled against the last-place Braves, they have actaully held their own against the first-place Nationals. The Marlins are 6-7 against the Nats this year, and these final two series will be crucial for both teams. The Nationals are second in baseball in team ERA at 3.45, so we know it will be tough for the Marlins to score runs, but they will have to find a way. The starters have been great but the bullpen has been shaky, so Miami’s goal in all six of these games should be to work the count and get the starters out early. The Marlins need to at least split these six games against Washington, but winning four (or more) of six would put them in much better position.
New York Mets 68-64 (Sep. 26-28 @ Marlins Park)
The series against the Mets to finish out August is not going so hot, so the Marlins will need to turn it around quick. Obviously, it is the pitching that dominates for New York, which ranks third in baseball in team ERA. That pitching staff has stifled the Marlins offense for most of the season, as Miami has only scored 3.43 runs per game in its first 14 games against the Mets this season. But, as good as the Mets are at pitching, they are just as bad at hitting. Their offense ranks 28th in baseball in both runs scored and batting average. It may take wins in two of the three games in this series for the Marlins to stay in contention.
A 19-10 record in September for the Marlins would be their most reasonable best best, putting them at 86-76 on the season. But, the Cardinals, Pirates, and Mets are all starting to play well while Miami is starting to fade, so 86 wins may not be enough. The Marlins’ race for the second wild card spot in the National League will be tough, and their play in September will tell us if they are really ready to be a playoff contender.