ESPN lists the Marlins’ chance of reaching the playoffs at 4.3 percent. Baseball Prospectus has them at 2.8 percent.
No matter who’s crunching the numbers and doing the math, this much is certain: The Marlins are a long shot to play in October, and their chances of getting there are declining by the day.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said veteran Marlins pitcher Brad Penny.
That’s putting it mildly.
As they prepared to open a three-game interleague series against the first-place Angels, the Marlins were sitting four games out in the wild-card race and an all-but-insurmountable 11 games out in the National League East with only 33 left to play.
Perhaps more discouraging for the Marlins, however, was knowing they wasted a ripe opportunity to put themselves in the thick of it over a just completed nine-game stretch against weaker opponents. After dropping their final two games in Denver against the last-place Rockies over the weekend, the Marlins were able to show only a 5-4 mark during that soft run.
Now the schedule for them becomes decidedly more challenging.
Counting their game on Monday at Angel Stadium, the Marlins were faced with the prospect of playing 20 of their final 33 games on the road. They have 21 games upcoming against teams with winning records. And they have eight games left against the streaking Washington Nationals, who are running away with the division.
But no one on the Marlins is ready to concede.
“Anything can happen,” said first baseman Garrett Jones. “Things turn around quick. Teams change spots quick.”
In order to secure a wild-card spot, the Marlins must hurdle three of the following four teams — St. Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. But they face only one of those teams — the Braves — the rest of the season. In other words, in addition to winning on their own, they’re going to need help.
“I try not to worry about other teams, because we can’t help them lose,” said Marlins reliever Bryan Morris.
Penny said the Marlins must start playing with a sense of urgency.
“This is no longer a marathon,” Penny said. “It’s a sprint. And the more teams you have to pass, the harder it is, because those other teams are fighting for the same thing.”
Penny said the Marlins have to figure out a way to get past the .500 hump and start reeling off wins.
“I feel like we’re just hovering around the .500 mark,” Penny said. “We’ll go one game above, and then right back down. We’ve got to break that hump.”
The Marlins went into their series against the Rockies with a .500 record (63-63), improved to one game over with a win on Friday, dropped back to .500 with Saturday’s loss, and sank to one game under (64-65) with another loss Sunday.
The longer the Marlins hover around the .500 mark, the worse their odds become.
“It’s definitely a tough task, but it’s not impossible,” Morris said. “That five percent chance [of reaching the playoffs] could change to 40 percent in a matter of a week if we win seven and they [the other contenders] lose seven.”