It was one of those games for Miami last night. Jose Ureña, arguably the team's best starting pitcher this season, was inefficient and sloppy, and Giancarlo Stanton, the team's best hitter, had an off night.
The rest of the bullpen and lineup could not pick up the slack, and Washington, the runaway division leaders and first team the Marlins have faced with a winning record since August 13, won comfortably.
Okay, Miami's hot streak is not immediately extinguished after one loss to a very good team, but the manner of the final result did feel like a bit of a reality check. The streak, starting with the sweep of the Rockies two weeks ago and then continuing against basement-dwelling teams, is/was bound to end sooner or later, but it has produced some of the most exciting Marlins baseball since 2003.
Led by Stanton, the Marlins have turned their season around after another dismal start to a campaign, as they fell as many as 13 games below .500 at one point. They have climbed back to a winning record over the past few days, and that in itself is a remarkable achievement.
Aside from the 2009 season in which the Marlins started 11-1 and only missed out on the Wild Card by five games (and the division title by six), it’s hard to think of a time when the Marlins have been as good for such a long stretch of games. What was clear last night though, was that the team still has a ways to go to compete with the big boys in October.
However, that is not to say that they cannot improve enough by the time the season wraps up. Before too long, Miami could have Justin Bour, Martin Prado, and Wei-Yin Chen back. Couple that with the potential call up of impressive minor league pitcher Dillon Peters, and help is on the way for a ball club that is as close as it has been to postseason baseball in well over a decade.
Miami's bubble was burst last night by a perennial postseason presence. It showed that, as of right now, the team is not ready to compete on the big stage. However, the team has showed over the past two and a half weeks that they have the ability to complete the unlikeliest of comebacks, just like in 2003.
With reinforcements on the way and an outfield that, collectively, cannot be stopped, it is going to go right down to the wire for the 2017 Miami Marlins, and they just might gatecrash the playoffs once again.