Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
The Miami Marlins were the unlikeliest of the 2020 MLB playoff teams.
More than half their team was diagnosed with COVID-19 within days of the season opening. Having to play with a bare-bones roster once they dealt with the outbreak, the Marlins somehow navigated the worst of the pandemic, played solid baseball all year and snuck into the playoffs. All of that was a nice enough story that most expected to end with a matchup against the formidable Chicago Cubs.
These Marlins apparently aren’t ready for their roller-coaster season to end.
Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer, and Jesus Aguilar added a two-run shot as part of a five-run seventh inning, spearheading the Marlins’ 5-1 win over the Cubs in Game 1 of their Wild Card Series. Miami is one win away from shockingly advancing to the NLDS.
Sandy Alcantara gave up one run on three hits over 6.2 innings to shut down the Cubs lineup. Kyle Hendricks, who shut Miami out for the first six innings, was saddled with the loss after giving up three earned over 6.1 innings.
Go…Marlins? Go Marlins!
From a purely objective standpoint, it’s clear where rooting alignments of non-Cubs fans lie in this series.
On one hand, you have a monolithic franchise with a star-laden roster. On the other, you have…whatever’s going on in Miami. There was no bigger on-paper mismatch in these playoffs. The Marlins had the third-worst run differential in the entire National League. Not among playoff teams. The whole National League. The 25-35 Diamondbacks had a better run differential.
All of which is to say: It’s a fun story that the Marlins are even here in the first place. Add in the season-long adversity the team faced, and they’re the easiest team to root for among all playoff teams.
Too many teams in the modern era jump straight to “nobody believed in us” at the slightest sign of controversy. When it comes to the Marlins, no one actually believed in this team outside the clubhouse.
The Cubs are going to be favored in Game 2, and they’d be favored in a potential Game 3. For good reason. The talent disparity of these two teams is jarring.
That said, the (virtual) fan sentiment is going to be with Miami.
Cubs Star Swoon Continues
The Cubs’ struggles at the plate aren’t anything new. This is their seventh loss in their last 10 games, the sixth time in that period the Cubs have scored two or fewer runs. Chicago’s 265 runs scored were the worst of any division winner in the sport. The Marlins were the only NL playoff team outside the Central to score fewer runs than the Cubs.
The shortened season was a nightmare for Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. It was a mostly bad dream for Anthony Rizzo. No everyday player hit better than .265 on the entire roster.
The swoon is looking less and less like a small-sample fluke by the day. Rizzo, Bryant and Jason Heyward went a combined 0-for-12 on a day when the Cubs mustered up just four hits.
This offense is one of the most disappointing units in MLB, and their failures have the Cubs on the brink of elimination.