Miami Marlins' Pennant Hopes Begin Today in Washington

Paul Francis SullivanChief Writer IJuly 13, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 29: Josh Johnson #55 of the Miami Marlins pitches during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park on June 29, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

If someone told you at the beginning of the season that the Phillies would go into the All-Star break with 50 losses and would be fielding offers for Cole Hamels, you would probably think the Marlins would be running away with the division.

As it turns out, the Phillies are not the only underachievers in the National League East. For all of the offseason hype, Showtime camera crews, the new park and the arrival of Ozzie Guillen and Jose Reyes et al, the Marlins are on pace for 84 losses and being a devastating flop.

As it turns out, the division is led by the wildly overachieving Washington Nationals.

But baseball has a funny way of making the scores even. An underachieving team can have time to right the ship and overachievers tend to hit a bump along the way. Remember the Padres' ten-game losing streak that essentially doomed their 2010 playoff hopes?

If tides are going to turn and seasons salvaged, then Friday night is indeed a big game for Miami. They return from the All-Star Game facing the front-running Nationals head to head.

Josh Johnson is starting. His numbers are far from what one would expect from his ace-like stuff. But he has been pitching well lately. Jose Reyes is batting .267. Chances are that average will be coming up in the second half. Hanley Ramirez is not a .258 hitter with a .747 OPS. He is due for a big second half.

And can Heath Bell be this horrible all season? Well, maybe.

The point is, if there is any truth to the law of averages, then Miami is going to be playing some serious catch up in the second half.

The first step is to make up ground on the leaders. Believe it or not, this is already a big game. Each victory brings them one step closer to where everyone thought they would be.