Five things to watch for from Marlins in second half
Miami is surveying the trade market for pitching as it attempts to make run
MIAMI -- At the midway point, the Marlins are juggling expectations with realizations.
Considering how they've stayed within striking distance in the National League East and the NL Wild Card race, the expectation is to make a second-half run. There also is a realization that the club finished 62-100 a year ago.
Based on 2013, many would be ecstatic that the Marlins are sitting at 39-43 after 82 games. Miami is 4 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Wild Card race and five out in the NL East.
Yet, there is a feeling of disappointment heading into Monday's off-day. Showing how snakebitten the Marlins were in June: They are the first team in MLB history to lose five or more games that lasted at least 13 innings in a calendar month, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"There aren't moral victories in the big leagues, but we're close," manager Mike Redmond said.
Slugger Giancarlo Stanton, having an MVP and All-Star-caliber season, sees small things separating wins from losses.
"That's experience," Stanton said. "We've lost so many games on little mental errors -- baserunning errors or defensive errors. We've got to be more locked in on certain things, and understand the game against really good teams."
To reach the next level, here are five things to watch out for over the final 80 games.
1. Trade options
The Marlins are surveying the market, specifically for an established starting pitcher. Yet the asking price is extremely high. Miami's front office is pondering what players would be worth it.
When Jose Fernandez underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in May, the Marlins lost their ace.
The two No. 1s believed to be on the market are Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs and David Price of the Rays. Both will command a hefty bounty. Most likely, the Marlins won't be serious contenders for either, largely because it would mean parting with players currently on their big league roster and high-end prospects.
If a starting pitcher is added, the more ideal candidate would be someone with upside and more years of club control.
2. Solidifying second base
With Rafael Furcal going down with a left hamstring injury, the club is scrambling once again for second-base help.
Although Furcal missed so much time the first few months, the hope was he would be a stabilizing presence leading off and playing second base. Now the team is going with inexperienced yet talented options in Derek Dietrich, Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas.
Don't be surprised if the Marlins look to trade for a veteran middle infielder to help at second and shortstop.
3. Get healthy
June started with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia being placed on the seven-day concussion list, and the month included outfielder Christian Yelich (back), shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (right triceps) and Furcal (hamstring) each going on the 15-day disabled list. That's four regulars missing at least two weeks, and Furcal could be done for the season.
Saltalamacchia and Yelich are back, but Hechavarria remains out until at least Sunday.
4. Keep bullpen fresh
The high number of extra-inning games, coupled with some shaky starting pitching, has resulted in the Marlins' relievers logging a Major League-high 102 2/3 innings in June. The second most is the Rockies (94).
To ease the burden on the 'pen, the starters simply must pitch deeper into games.
5. Eliminate mistakes
If the Marlins are to get on a roll, they have to stop beating themselves. In June especially, they've continued to make mistakes (mental and physical) in the field and on the basepaths.
Miami has committed 57 errors, tied with the A's for the fifth most in the Majors, and its fielding percentage of .982 is in the lower half of the league. Toss in some wild pitches at crucial times, and you see why the team has struggled of late.
To get on track, the Marlins must clean up their game.