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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Marlins Wild Card series preview

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Here’s a team we haven’t seen in quite some time.

Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Marlins. Remember them?

The Cubs haven’t played the Marlins since May 9, 2019 — a span of 187 games, which is a lot even when we've been through a 60-game season this year. As of today, it’s 509 days since these two teams have seen each other.

As such, I thought I’d ask Ely Sussman, managing editor of our SB Nation Marlins site Fish Stripes, to tell us a bit about his team.

Following the infamous late July COVID-19 outbreak, once we learned that the Marlins—who even at full strength were lacking in star power and roster continuity—had lost the majority of their active players for an extended period of time, they were understandably dismissed as a potential 2020 contender. But to the delight of their tortured fanbase, they “rode the wave” to 31 wins and a berth in this year’s expanded postseason field.

Only five players (3B Brian Anderson, SP Pablo López, 1B/DH Jesús Aguilar, RP Brandon Kintzler and RP Brad Boxberger) stuck on the active roster for the entire summer, and each of them will be heavily relied upon during the Wild Card Series. Anderson is the closest thing that the Fish have to a “franchise player” after putting together his third straight above-average campaign, showing more power potential than ever (11 HR in 229 PA). His top challengers for that title are right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who starred in Friday night’s clinching win and consistently works deep into his games, and dynamic rookie Sixto Sánchez. Alcantara, Sánchez and López will be the Marlins’ starters for this series.

Overall, the Marlins are a mediocre hitting team, but they show their resiliency in two-out situations (accounting for 46.4 percent of their total runs scored). From Jon Berti, Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra to rookies Jazz Chisholm and Monte Harrison, they are hyper-aggressive on the basepaths.

Don Mattingly is making his fourth postseason appearance as a major league manager, with only one series win on his résumé. He will (deservedly) receive NL Manager of the Year honors for the way he integrated countless prospects and journeymen onto the team and put them in positions to be successful. However, he has tendencies to bury the team’s best hitters too far down in the lineup and keep Miami relievers in annoyingly rigid roles.

Fun fact

In 2018 and 2019 combined — the last time these teams faced each other — the Cubs went 11-3 against the Marlins and 6-1 at Wrigley Field, the only Wrigley loss coming May 6, 2019 when the Cubs blew a ninth-inning lead.

Pitching matchups (2020 season record)

Game 1, Wednesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (6-5, 2.88 ERA, 0.996 WHIP, 3.55 FIP) vs. Sandy Alcantara, RHP (3-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.190 WHIP, 3.71 FIP)

Game 2, Thursday: Yu Darvish, RHP (8-3, 2.01 ERA, 0.961 WHIP, 2.23 FIP) vs. Sixto Sanchez, RHP (3-2, 3.46 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 3.50 FIP)

Game 3, Friday (if necessary): Jon Lester, LHP (3-3, 5.16 ERA, 1.328 WHIP, 5.14 FIP) vs. Pablo Lopez, RHP (6-4, 3.61 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, 3.09 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Game 1, Wednesday: 1:08 p.m. CT, ABC

Game 2, Thursday; 1:08 p.m. CT, ABC

Game 3, Friday (if necessary): 1:08 p.m. CT, ABC

As noted last night when the broadcast schedule was announced, this is a real old-school postseason schedule, all day games. For one thing, it’ll mean somewhat warmer weather for the players, as this week’s going to be quite cool at night. The only contingency is for Friday’s game, if played. If the Cubs game is the only game remaining Friday, it will be played at 6:08 p.m. CT, otherwise it remains at 1:08. Announcers: Jon Sciambi, Chipper Jones and Jesse Rogers.

Prediction

The Marlins have had a remarkable journey this year, considering all the COVID-19 positive tests and all the players they had to use — 62 in all, including 37 pitchers. They did seem to run out of gas at the end of the regular season, losing five of their last eight and being outscored 56-26 in those games.

They were also just 9-14 against teams with winning records this year. The Cubs went 19-14 against teams who finished over .500.

The Marlins don’t hit righthanders (.235/.318/355) nearly as well as they do lefthanders (.265/.319/.456), and the Cubs have two RHP going in Games 1 and 2 who are very, very tough at Wrigley Field.

Lastly, we owe this franchise one. The Marlins have been a great story, but the Cubs will dispatch them by winning the first two games.

Up next

If the Cubs win the series, they will face the winner of the Braves/Reds wild-card series in Houston beginning Tuesday, October 6. If the Cubs lose the series, the next regular-season game will be Thursday, April 1, 2021 vs. the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Poll

The result of the Cubs/Marlins wild-card series will be...

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Cubs in two games
    (216 votes)
  • 25%
    Cubs in three games
    (92 votes)
  • 6%
    Marlins in two games
    (23 votes)
  • 7%
    Marlins in three games
    (28 votes)
359 votes total Vote Now