Marlins vs. Nationals, 7:10 p.m. (FSNF)

Miami Marlins ready to get back to work for second half of season

 

Despite the Marlins’ troublesome first half and what is expected to be a steep climb into playoff relevance, they believe they have what it takes to get it done.

cspencer@MiamiHerald.com

Ozzie Guillen asked for God’s forgiveness. And then he made a plea for help.

“Open that roof so God can hear me,” Guillen said during his team’s workout Thursday at Marlins Park. “God, I know I was a piece of [expletive] for 48 years. Forgive me for what I did. But, please. I want one lineup, one closer.”

Guillen wouldn’t complain if it started raining victories from the heavens, either.

The Marlins, who suffered through a roller-coaster first half that contained more valleys than peaks, will try to get back on track when they begin play in the second half, starting Friday with a critical early test, a four-game series with the first-place Nationals.

The Marlins are 41-44, nine games behind the Nationals.

“They’ve got a sizable lead on us in the standings,” Marlins reliever Randy Choate said. “They have the luxury of knowing they can lose a couple of games and still have a nine-game lead. It could be devastating if we lose three out of four — or all four games — to these guys coming out of the break.”

Not only do the Marlins have a hill to climb in order to get back in the race, but they will be severely handicapped because of the absence of their top hitter, Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton will miss anywhere from four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Monday.

Although the Marlins are welcoming the return of center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, who has missed more than a month because of a thumb injury, they don’t have anyone capable of replacing a Stanton, whose presence is great.

With Stanton gone, Guillen said the large cast of underperformers in the lineup need to step up their game — and quickly. That means Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Logan Morrison and John Buck need to start swinging the bat better.

“I don’t think we played bad,” Guillen said of the first half. “We played very, very bad. The first half was miserable.”

Guillen said he began to wonder whether the Marlins were simply “a bad team” that everyone overestimated, but decided it was “a good team playing bad.”

Guillen would like to settle on one lineup that he can stick with. He used 51 different lineups in the team’s first 85 games. He also would like the closer’s situation, unsettled because of Heath Bell’s constant struggles, to get resolved.

One day after saying in a radio interview that he intended to go to a “bullpen by committee,” Guillen was noncommittal when asked about his plans Thursday. He did not rule out using Bell in the ninth-inning role, but said others — such as Steve Cishek or Choate — could also be used in the ninth, depending on the situation.

Whatever the case, the Marlins have their work cut out.

During the Nationals series, they’ll be facing two of the best starters in the majors in Stephen Strasburg and Hialeah native Gio Gonzalez, who one-hit them last season when he was with the Oakland A’s.

“I think it’s big [series] but I don’t want to put our whole season on it,” said Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle, who is scheduled to face Gonzalez on Saturday. “If we lose three or four, should we just cash it in and not play the rest of the year? No.”

Guillen and his players said they still have plenty of time to make it a race.

“I told the players it’s not going to be easy,” Guillen said. “I feel like now we’re competing to get to the Olympics. We have to give everything we have to get to the Olympics. Hopefully, we win a medal. But everybody’s got to step it up a notch.”

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