Two National League East rivals face with third place on the line as the New York Mets head to Marlins Park.
If you’re a fan of this version of the Miami Marlins, I’d strongly consider showing up to the ballpark over the next few days. Chances are the same team won’t be coming back the next time they’re in town.
The Fish finish off their homestand with a three-game set against the visiting Metropolitans. Then they wrap up the season’s first half with a ten game road trip that could well decide the fate of the rest of the roster. Creep closer to .500, and they increase the pressure on the front office to stay the course.
Continue to idle on the wrong side of even, and Nick Wittgren might be the team’s closer when we return from the All-Star Break. Taking care of business against another NL East team not named Atlanta would be a step in the right direction.
So, plenty to watch for in this series. Although, if you really want to boil it down, it’s a series all about responses for the Miami Marlins. From the clubhouse, to a new shortstop, to a breakout outfielder, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in.
Will Riddle Buckle or Bounce Back?
Go ahead and squint Miami Marlins fans. Is the player pictured above soaring high or falling flat on his backside?
That’s what we get to start asking ourselves about the newly minted Marlins starting shortstop.
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JT Riddle officially takes over the starting role this week, and does so having recorded only one hit in his last eight games. Hey, he might not be as good a defender as Adeiny Hechavarria was, but at least he probably won’t be as good of a hitter either.
He could end up being close though, and for the next few seasons will certainly be cheaper. The burden of expectation on the youngster has now changed dramatically. Like the old football expression goes, the most popular player on the roster is the backup quarterback.
Riddle has succeeded in supplanting his opposition and is now in the starting spotlight. However, if he doesn’t get back on track at the plate, it’s a job that might only last until Miguel Rojas makes his own return from the DL. How he handles that pressure will be fascinating for both Riddle’s sake, and for the front office.
How Will The Rest Of The Team Feel About This?
Next up, we have the rest of the Miami Marlins roster to consider.
The message in this clubhouse to this point, presumably, has been about getting back to .500 and seeing where that takes them. Their .612 winning percentage over the past six weeks is indicative of a team that isn’t ready to give up on the season.
But now a valued member of the clubhouse has been dealt for what appears to be salary relief purposes. Rumors abound about the fate of the only three relief pitchers who have inspired relatively consistent confidence.
It’s only fair to wonder how the Marlins will respond to this. After all, this wasn’t an injury, a collapse in performance, or an outside circumstance. This was the front office making a decision in no way designed to help the 2017 cause.
The normal ebb and flow of three games is admittedly a small sample size. But keep an eye on whether the Marlins blow the Mets out of water, or get decisively crushed here.
Can Marcell Keep His Starting Spot?
Lastly, let’s hear it for the presumptive sixth Miami Marlins All-Star starter in franchise history.
Take a bow, Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna managed to edge out a pair of uber-popular Chicago Cubs and the Marlins own Giancarlo Stanton to claim the third outfield spot in the most recent round of fan voting. Which is major cause to celebrate for Marlins fans, especially considering how seldom our guys are recognized.
Case in point, the title of sixth starter is pretty misleading. For one, Ozuna would only be the third individual to start an All-Star Game for Miami. In fact, Ozuna is making his second start in the ASG thanks to last year’s injury fill-in appearance.
He would join three-peater Hanley Ramirez as the only other Marlin with consecutive appearances in the NL starting lineup.
Secondly, the key distinction of being voted in as a starter has only happened five times. Which probably reads as if my math is wrong, until you remember the horror show of the 2015 season. Both Stanton and Dee Gordon were tabbed to start, and both were forced out due to injuries.
So, if this holds, it would be huge for fans of the franchise. The story to watch here is whether or not Marcell can keep the hot hitting pace up now that even more spotlight is shining on him.
The game might be weeks off, but this series likely decides his candidacy.
Here’s hoping for a winning homestand. And that the next time the Miami Marlins take the field at Marlins Park, it’s with the same team that takes the field tonight.