The Miami Marlins were not supposed to make the playoffs this season. Not after trading all of their stars two years ago to start over. Not after losing 98 games in 2018, and another 105 games in 2019. And certainly not after going through a COVID-19 outbreak that nearly threw the entire MLB season for a loop.
But if there’s one thing baseball in 2020 has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected.
With Friday’s 4-3, 10-inning victory against the New York Yankees, the Marlins not only clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2003, they made history. Miami is now the first National League team to reach the playoffs one year after losing 100 or more games.
The only other MLB team to do that: The 2017 Minnesota Twins.
Overall, it’s only Miami’s third postseason appearance since the franchise debuted in 1993. But while their appearances have been rare, they’ve also been fruitful. Both appearances (1997 and 2003) ended with World Series championships. Now imagine this: Miami can win their third World Series title before they’ve won a division title.
Marlins clinch at Derek Jeter’s old home
The achievement was especially sweet for Marlins owner Derek Jeter. After spending his entire 20-year, Hall of Fame career in Yankees pinstripes, his team clinched his first postseason berth as an owner at the ballpark he helped make possible. In fact, they did it on the six-year anniversary of Jeter’s memorable final home game.
Derek Jeter’s legendary final Yankee Stadium at-bat happened six years ago today. pic.twitter.com/M97tmbM7FL— MLB (@MLB) September 25, 2020
It was also special for Marlins manager Don Mattingly. The former first baseman played his entire 14-year career in the Bronx. Before the game, Mattingly said he was more focused on the Marlins’ success than how or where the clinch happened.
“Nobody picked this club to be able to do anything this season, but we believed in ourselves,” Mattingly said. “It’s easy to be proud of these guys, the way they have dealt with everything.”
Celebrating Jose Fernandez
Friday also marked a sad anniversary for the Marlins organization. Four years ago, Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident. He was only 24.
After Friday’s win, Mattingly paid tribute to their late ace.
Really emotional reaction from Don Mattingly following the Marlins clinching a postseason berth. Mentions it being the 4-year anniversary of Jose Fernandez’s death. pic.twitter.com/T9b2OraXxT— Will Manso (@WillManso) September 26, 2020
Can the Marlins win the World Series?
This season is random enough and unpredictable enough that nothing would truly shock us. With that in mind, the Marlins will be facing an uphill battle.
The newly-created Wild Card Series is the reason Miami got in. It’s also the reason a long stay is unlikely. Entering play on Friday, the Marlins ranked bottom 10 in MLB in team ERA (4.85) and team OPS (.706). With fewer off days during the postseason schedule, Miami’s lack of pitching depth will present a problem sooner than later. As will a lineup that’s far from special.
In the wild card Series, Miami will likely take on a sliding Chicago Cubs team that honestly could be ripe for an upset. If the Marlins survive, chances are they’ll eventually run into the Dodgers, Braves or Padres. Those are difficult, high-caliber opponents. Worth noting: Miami has gone 6-11 against the Braves, Rays and Yankees this season.
That said, if Miami can win a series or two in the postseason, that will be among the most surprising and impressive accomplishments we’ve seen in a long time.
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