Miami, Florida – They’re still here. That’s the message of the Miami Marlins as they now face the Atlanta Braves in a best-of-five NLDS primed with excitement. The Fish have never lost a postseason series but the streak will be put to the test. Facing their NL East division rivals, Miami will have to go into Minute Maid Park flashing their A-game if they want to keep on playing. Unlike the wildcard round of the playoffs, the rest of the postseason will be played in neutral stadiums for the first time. Before looking forward to tomorrow’s game in Houston, let’s look back.

How They Got Here

The Marlins advanced on the strength of their pitching. Both Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sánchez weaved together absolute gems in their playoff debuts, backed up by the bullpen to limit the Chicago Cubs to just one run. They struggled mightily at the plate, going 3-for-27 (.111) with runners on base in the series. Oh, it gets worse, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo combined to go 0-for-12 on Friday, finishing the series going 1-for-24. And you think the Marlins offense was frustrating.

Miami went in for the swift sweep at Wrigley, finding the magic in the seventh inning of both games to seal the deal on the road. In Game 1 of the series, the Fish exploded for five runs to take and hold the lead. Corey Dickerson and Jesús Aguilar went yard in a ballgame featuring the longball as the only way to score. On Friday, Garret Cooper broke the deadlock with a dinger of his own followed shortly by Magneuris Sierra hitting an RBI single for some insurance.

The relief corps did a superb job frustrating the Cubs at the plate, holding them to a pair of hits in a little over six innings of work. All while recording six strikeouts. No Steve Bartman required.

A Bigger Threat

Atlanta will be their toughest opponent yet. Unlike the Cubbies, the Braves are a high-powered offense capable of putting up big innings as the Marlins are painfully aware. Winning the season series 6-4, the Braves outscored the Fish 68-44 including a couple of very ugly losses. Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of several potential headaches for Miami. He’s having a good postseason thus far batting .364. Freddie Freeman hammered the Marlins during the season. Appearing in all 10 games, Freeman hit .350 with two homers and 11 RBIs although he’s been quiet in the playoffs. Another guy who’s having a slow postseason is Dansby Swanson. He may be currently hitting .111 but back in the regular season, Swanson hit .429 with three doubles, two dingers, and six RBIs.

Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud are also in a similar situation. This is largely due to their quick series sweep of the Cincinnati Reds where offensive production in the first game was very low, a great pitcher’s duel going into extras. The real Marlins killer is Adam Duvall. Hitting .313 the man tattooed the Fish with five round-trippers and 12 RBIs, this in nine-game appearances (eight starts). As the Reds have shown, Miami’s pitching staff is capable of silencing Atlanta’s bats. The Marlins announced the first three starters will be Sandy, Sixto, and Pablo López.

If there was one player who really needs to step up it’s Brian Anderson. BA is in an ugly 0-for-9 slump and the team will need him in the NLDS. If Anderson continues to go hitless, the Marlins will likely be in trouble. Dickerson’s home run in Game 1 of the wildcard series was great but I want to see more from him. The same goes for Cooper and Aguilar.

Final Thoughts

These guys can take advantage of a ballpark that has a very short porch in left field, a popular target for right-handed hitters who can pull the ball. The bullpen will have to step up once more, especially if the starters or offense struggles. At the end of the day, there needs to be someone stepping up to lead this team deeper into the postseason. If one aspect stumbles, the others have to compensate. With some luck, Starling Marte might make a return from his unfortunate injury. Every little bit helps. My biggest worry is if the Braves pounce on the pitchers, particularly the starters.

If this happens, the bats need to respond or they will find themselves falling behind. The beauty of the playoffs is whatever occurred during the season is now irrelevant. Atlanta may have had the upper hand but so did the Giants (and Cubs) back in 2003 where they won five of six during the season. Regardless, get ready folks this is going to be a doozy. If I had to make a prediction, Marlins in five.

Photo Credit | Danis Sosa

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Gabriel Garcia
Just an avid sports fan who happens to have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with his local teams be it collegiate or professional and also happens to be a news junkie. Mix in outstanding optimism with cold realism and you've got yourself a balanced cocktail perfect for champions.

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