The Miami Marlins are still in the playoff race, but will fade fast without someone claiming the role of staff ace.
With just two weeks to go, the surprising Miami Marlins are still alive for a spot in the postseason. It has been an amazingly encouraging season from the young ballclub.
But if something doesn’t change in the next few days, any reasonable hopes of making the playoffs are going to fall by the wayside.
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What is that something? Only something the Miami Marlins have lacked since 2016. Only the most precious commodity in professional baseball. If the Marlins are really going to make the playoffs for the first time since Facebook was created (yep), they are going to need someone in their starting rotation to step up and claim the title of staff ace.
Now, some of you reading this might be screaming that this has already happened. Sandy Alcantara has looked great. Pablo Lopez has taken a massive step forward. The Miami Marlins pitching depth in the organization is so good, they were able to deal another starting pitcher with elite stuff to Arizona.
And, indeed, pitching is a big reason the Marlins are in this position. However, posting winning records does not a staff ace make.
The staff ace finds a way to win the must-win game. They close out series. They pad leads in the standings. They set the tone for the series. In other words, they do things that none of the Miami Marlins top options for the job showed up to do this past week.
Lopez could have nailed down a sweep against first-place Atlanta last Wednesday and instead turned in the worst outing of his career. That was two clunkers in a row from who had been Miami’s most productive pitcher on the year. Alcantara struggled to keep runners off the basepaths in the opener of their critical seven-game series opener against second-place Philadelphia on Thursday. Jose Urena, a staff veteran, and two-time Opening Day starter got taken to school two days later.
Rookie Sixto Sanchez might have leaped in front of the pack with his seven-inning complete game Sunday afternoon. However, one tends to want at least a little veteran guile from an ace to come playoff time. Marlins fans would do well to remember how Dontrelle Willis fared in the 2003 playoffs. Or better still, to not remember that at all.
Understandably, this might seem like harsh criticism for one of the 2020 MLB season’s most pleasant surprise teams. Yet this is what the Miami Marlins have earned with their play to this point. Hope and expectation. Something long forsaken for Marlins fans.
Lopez and Alcantara both take turns in the next few days. Fingers crossed they make this article seem foolish and stupid by Wednesday night.