Opposite dugout: In wake of tragedy, Marlins try to finish season on high note

marlins-logo.jpgManager: Don Mattingly (1st season)

Record: 78-80

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: LF Christian Yelich (.292 with 20 HR, 95 RBIs), CF Marcell Ozuna (.264 with 23 HR, 75 RBIs), RF Giancarlo Stanton (27 HR, 74 RBIs), RHP Tom Koehler (4-13, 4.15 ERA), RHP A.J. Ramos (2.86 ERA with 39 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 8-8

Pitching probables:

Sept. 30: RHP Andrew Cashner vs. RHP A.J. Cole, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Oct. 1: LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. RHP Tanner Roark, 4:05 p.m., MASN2
Oct. 2: RHP Tom Koehler vs. RHP Max Scherzer, 3:05 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Marlins:

In the midst of a playoff race heading into October, it can be easy to forget that baseball is just a game. Players elevate their level of play and rivalries intensify as every pitch, out and run are of the upmost importance. But the Marlins and the sporting world were reminded last weekend that some things are bigger than baseball.

The Marlins and the entire baseball community were devastated to learn early Sunday morning that All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez had passed away in a boating accident. While we may never know why such terrible things happen, it is without a doubt that Fernandez leaves behind a legacy in Miami for his love of the game and more importantly his love for life. This is best exemplified in the affection shown by not just his Marlins teammates, but by the city of Miami, his fellow Cuban-born players and the entire baseball community.

And still, there are games to be played. How the Marlins rallied together to not only play, but beat the Mets in their first game since Fernandez's death, I will never know. Dee Gordon's tribute to the late right-hander and subsequent leadoff home run was a special moment straight out of a Disney movie. And now, the Fish look to finish their season on a high note in wake of a tragedy.

Offensively, the Marlins are led by third baseman Martin Prado and catcher J.T. Realmuto. Prado is slashing .305/.359/.418 with 75 RBIs, while Realmuto is slashing .305/.344/.432 with 11 homers. Left fielder Christian Yelich posts a .292 average with 20 home runs and a team-high 95 RBIs. Center fielder Marcell Ozuna is batting .264 with 23 longballs and 75 RBIs, and although right fielder Giancarlo Stanton suffered another injury-plagued season, he leads the Fish with 27 homers to go along with 74 RBIs.

Right-hander Andrew Cashner gets the ball for the Marlins to start the final series of the regular season. Since being included in a seven-player deal between the Padres and Marlins before the non-waiver trade deadline, Cashner is 1-4 with a 5.73 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) with Miami. He hasn't faced the Nationals yet this season, but is 2-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 11 games (six starts) against them in his career. Lefty Wei-Yin Chen will start Saturday afternoon's game in D.C. Another Marlin going though an injury-filled season, the former Oriole is just 5-4 with a 5.02 ERA in 21 starts this season. He is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against the Nats this year, both of which were at Marlins Park. Right-hander Tom Koehler will toe the mound for Sunday's regular season finale at 3 p.m. Koehler is 9-13 with a 4.15 ERA in 32 starts this season and 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts against the Nationals this year.

Although this series will be played with heavy hearts on both sides, it still means something to both clubs. The Nationals will be looking to lock up home field advantage against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, while a sweep will give the Marlins their first above-.500 finish since 2009.

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