After a tough June, the Florida Marlins have rebounded strongly under the reins of Jack McKeon. After a late-inning win against the Mets they are back at the .500 mark and are sporting a 55-55 record. The Marlins have been impressive in July and are fighting their way through the standings.
Their efforts are being noticed and so are the results, but can this success deliver them a playoff spot for this 2011 postseason?
As we speak, the Marlins are 7.5 games out of the Wild Card and in front of them are the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks and division-rival Atlanta Braves. All of those teams are solid and have shown quality baseball during the season, but let's not forget that the Marlins have too. The Marlins at one point were considered one of the best teams in baseball and if it weren't for a horrible June they would still be in the playoff hunt.
Let's say that the Marlins continue their solid baseball and in August obtain a very good record of 18-11; the Marlins would then have a record of 71-66. Now let's say the Braves go 15-13 in August; they would have a record of 78-59 on the season. If both teams preform as mentioned, the Marlins will still be seven games, behind making their playoff hopes still very unlikely.
This prediction can go both ways. The Marlins, for all we know, can win 20-plus games and the Braves could lose 15-plus games; it clearly depends on many things, but if this prediction proves anything it proves that the Marlins need to win a lot more than they are now and the Braves need a late-season breakdown.
So what is the key for the Marlins to continue their success and hopefully make a run for the playoffs during these next two months?
The key is to win series, sweep when you can and avoid getting swept at all costs.
Yes, I know it's really obvious, but the Marlins need to enforce this play style in their team now more than ever. During this point in the season, every game is crucial and at no points can the Marlins give up. Because of the importance of each game, the Marlins will have to implement a strategy or specific kind of play style that is based on their pitching and defense.
The fewer runs that teams score on the Marlins, the easier it will be for them to win late in games especially with the hot-and-cold offense that the Marlins are known for. Without Josh Johnson, this task will be difficult, but not impossible.
People often forget how talented the Fish's rotation is; it is fully capable of carrying the team on their shoulders, but there are many doubts regarding rookie Brad Hand and former setup man Clay Hensley. These two starters in the rotation are regarded as subpar, but if they pitch as well as they did in July by doing their part and pitching five innings each start, then the Marlins will be fine.
Again, if the Marlins have a strong August, there are still other factors that could hinder the comeback, and that is the threat of the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks. They too can shake up the standings and take the Wild Card. The Marlins also need to be aware and keep an eye out for other teams that could shock the standings like the Mets, Pirates or even the Nationals.
The Marlins need to do one last thing during these next two months, and they need to do this more than anything—and that is beat the Braves. The Braves are 6-3 against the Marlins this year; that needs to change in August and September. The Marlins have three series left against the Braves. In order for the Marlins to make this happen, it would help greatly if they would sweep the Braves in the remaining games they have against them.
There are many "ifs" in this article but for all we know the Marlins could pull this off. They need to rely on three things: win series, avoid getting swept and beat the Braves!
A true test for the Fish are the next two series that include a four-game set against the Cardinals and a three-game set against the Braves in sunny South Florida.
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