Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals: Three stories to watch

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ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 23: The sun sets over Busch Stadium in the fifth inning during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 23, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 23: The sun sets over Busch Stadium in the fifth inning during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 23, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The Miami Marlins will celebrate the Fourth of July with four games at Busch Stadium, and will look to get back on track against the St. Louis Cardinals.

After a rough series loss over the weekend, the clock is just about striking midnight on this version of the Miami Marlins.

Even if Miami sweeps the next two series, they would still finish the first half under .500. Anything less than a 5-2 record this week will probably have players packing before the All-Star Game confetti stops falling. If there was ever a time for some Marlins magic, this is it.

That all starts with the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami’s perennial Spring Training rival. Unfortunately, they are also the same team that swept the Marlins back in May. What, if anything, Miami managed to learn from that encounter will need to be applied quickly.

Especially considering the fact that Monday starter Jeff Locke chalked up an 8.31 ERA against the Cardinals last season, and sits just south of 5.00 against the Redbirds for his career.

With that, let’s get to those three stories to watch for in this series. First and foremost, winning is essential. But there are some lighter, #ASG moments as well. From crunch time, to a catcher showdown, to the final countdown, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in.

Can the Marlins capture the series? 

The Miami Marlins need to win this one.

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That’s never a comfortable position for any four game series. Let alone one against a team so familiar with you. Thanks to the shared Spring confines of Roger Dean Stadium, St. Louis probably knows Miami as well as the Braves do.

Seriously, the familiarity even extends to the blogging community- we do an annual interview exchange with a Cardinals fansite. These teams aren’t going to surprise each other.

Still, this is a very different Marlins team. The offense is running much more smoothly, and this series will feature only one repeat starting pitcher for Miami. For the most part, that’s a positive. Adam Conley was destroyed by Cardinals hitting, and is gone. Jose Urena and Edinson Volquez will both pitch, and have been two of the Marlins more effective starters during their modest turnaround.

The downside is the continued presence of Locke, and the fact that your repeat pitcher is the same Tom Koehler that St. Louis lit up when they last faced him. Really, the only Miami Marlins pitcher that has demonstrated any effectiveness against the Cardinals this year is Dan Straily, and he’s the only pitcher they won’t have to worry about this time around.

Despite that, the Marlins have continued hitting well, and blew out the Brewers in Sunday’s finale. If they pack those same bats for the next beverage stadium on the road trip, they’ll have a chance. It’s a chance they can’t afford to waste though.

Marlins and Cardinals: Catcher showdown

Next up, there’s the small matter to settle of who gets to be the second catcher on the National League roster for the MLB All-Star Game. Will it be the Cardinals Yadier Molina? Or the Miami Marlins very own J.T. Realmuto?

Ok, maybe the MLB execs have already settled that. Wouldn’t it be great though if the two were allowed to play for the honor this week?

If Molina was anyone other than himself, a surefire Hall of Famer, Realmuto would easily be in this game. Plenty of great players have been blocked from starting in the MLB All-Star Game. But Realmuto is dealing with being blocked from even getting in as a reserve.

And while Buster Posey is admittedly on another level, Molina no longer is. Nationals fans can chafe all they want about Anthony Rendon‘s omission, but Realmuto clearly suffered the biggest slight from Rob Manfred and friends.

So our second story is the showdown, as two elite catchers share the same spotlight. Which one piles up more clutch hits, throws out more runners, makes the bigger impact? We needn’t ask who is going to steal more bases.

The roster is already decided. But a strong showing here could pay 2018 dividends, helping spread the word that there’s a new sheriff in town. Or at least a new Buster Posey deputy.

Miami Marlins fans need to #VoteBour 

Lastly, let’s go and get that third Miami Marlins All-Star.

Let’s also stick a pin in the fact that Major League Baseball put Justin Bour on the Final Vote List, and not Realmuto. Really, thanks Rob for picking our pretty deserving player at the National League’s deepest position over our extremely deserving player at baseball’s thinnest position. Nice.

Make no mistake though, Bour is having a monster breakout season. He deserves to be there. The former Cubs castoff has the makings of an All-Star slugger right now, and is still improving as a hitter.

He’s as worthy as anyone else on the list, and far more so than the uberpopular Kris Bryant. However, he’ll have a major hill to climb if he’s going to make it past better hitters from bigger markets.

His best advantage is power. Baseball fans love them some long balls, and Bour could easily send a few bouncing off the St. Louis Arch this week. All five finalists will be under the microscope for the next four games, something the Miami Marlins first baseman will benefit most from given his usual lack of attention.

Maybe some fans see a highlight and just decide to vote for the guy from the host city. In an even more likely turn, maybe some Cardinals fans give him a nod of grudging respect in an attempt to keep a Cub off the roster. Whatever it takes.

Next: Miami Marlins Independence day uniforms: Dapper or duds

So, go vote. You can do so here. Check out #VoteBour on Twitter. Be it by website, Tweet, or text, do what you must to get Justin Bour into the All-Star Game.

Just think. If you do it, you’ll be rewriting Miami Marlins All-Star history at first base.

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