The Marlins square off versus Atlanta in the NLDS. This is the matchup no Marlins fan wanted to see because of the 29-9 loss that the Marlins suffered last month at the hands of the potent Atlanta lineup. We are quick to forget that the season series was only 6-4 in the Braves favor. There is no sense of fear in the clubhouse as they have adapted the “bottom feeders” mentality fully and convincingly. The Braves have a clear tangible edge over the Marlins, but this Marlins team has a chance, and they know it.
Here are 5 things that need to happen for this Marlins run to continue into the NLCS:
Pitcher’s duels, not home run derbies
I think this goes without saying, but we can and will not be able to out-hit the Braves. Atlanta has 3 perennial MVP candidates at the top of their lineup. Yes, 3. Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna are the most intimidating 1,2,3 punch in the entire league let alone the NL. The Marlins will look to do what they did in Chicago. Rinse and repeat. We will see Sandy, Sixto, Pablo, and probably Trevor Rogers. If the Marlins pitching can perform as they did in Chicago, then the possibilities are endless. Even though Atlanta swept the Reds, their bats aren’t exactly hot. They only put up 2 runs through the first 20 innings of the Wild Card Series before they broke it open late against Raisel Iglesias. The Marlins bullpen was lights out in the Wild Card series, allowing 0 runs in their body of work. If this translates along with stellar outings from the starters, this series can be stolen.
Starling Marte plays for Marlins
If the Marlins are to win, it will have to be parallel to what they did in Chicago. Great pitching and timely veteran hitting. With Starling Marte in the lineup (our best hitter/veteran) the chances that we pick up one of those important timely hits increase exponentially. Marte has been a great veteran voice even if his statistics don’t show that in a Marlin uniform. Hitting just .245, Marte has struggled to an extent at the plate. He has, however, come through in extremely clutch moments to help propel the marlins to where they are now. Marte on the field means positive things. We can win without him, but at the end of the day, we want our guy out there patrolling center, stealing bases, and clutching up when it matters the most.
Even though the Marlins swept the Cubs, there were a lot of missed opportunities for the Fish. They failed to move runners over after getting them on early, and as a result, relied on the home run ball to bail them out. This cannot be the case in Atlanta. The Marlins were 2nd in the league in stolen bases, and they need to utilize this aspect of their game to its fullest extent if they are to steal 3 against Atlanta. Get runners on, steal bases, move the runner over, get him in. It’s a simple method that the Marlins struggled to apply at certain points this year. They get guys on consistently and steal bases consistently but struggle with the latter steps mentioned. By controlling games with their speed, the Marlins can maintain tempo and put pressure on the Braves to respond.
Sandy needs to be the ace
Sandy Alcantara has set the tone recently with his amazing starts to clinch a playoff spot in New York and in game 1 against the Cubs. He allowed only 3 runs in 13+ innings of work against two potent lineups (the Yankees more than the Cubs but still). If he can do this again, he will set the tone for Sixto, Pablo, and even Trevor. Sandy needs to go out and dominate like the ace that he is. Another 7 innings of the 1-run ball would do the trick. It is all about showing the Braves we are no joke. We are not losing 29-9 again. We are not into losing, period. Unlike the Braves, we don’t lose in the playoffs. Sandy can set the tone to keep this fact true.
Keep the Marlins mentality
Even if the Marlins go down 2-0 to the Braves (or at any point for that matter), they need to play the same way. They are “bottom feeders” and they need to continue to embrace it. It allows them to play with no pressure and just play a kids’ game. It allows the veterans to stay engaged, it shows the young guys the culture they are invested in. This team has beat all the odds to get here, what’s to say they don’t beat them again. They are playing with house money.
The Marlins have defied reality to find themselves here with a chance to compete for an NLCS berth, and there is nothing that is stopping them. They have no pressure. They are bottom feeders, and they will continue to play like it.