Around the NL East: Are the Marlins legit contenders?

Around the NL East: Are the Marlins legit contenders?
August 19, 2014, 12:00 pm
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(Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

ATLANTA BRAVES 

The good news for the Braves is that, after suffering through a brutal stretch, they've managed to rebound nicely by winning four straight games that included a sweep of the MLB-best Oakland Athletics. The bad news? The Nationals, the team they're chasing in the division, have been scorching-hot and have won seven in a row. So even after a bounce-back week, the Braves gained a grand total of zero games in the NL East standings. Bad timing, yeah? 

However, not all is lost in Atlanta. Their solid weekend puts the Braves a game-and-a-half back of a wild card spot, with three of their next four series matchups pitting them against the Pirates, Reds and Marlins -- all of whom are direct competitors. So after all the talk about the Braves fading away for good, perhaps they're not done just yet. 

MIAMI MARLINS 

We can't believe we're saying this, but it's true: The Miami Marlins are officially contenders for a postseason berth. This has technically been the case throughout most of the season, but the majority of pundits around baseball believed the Marlins would suffer a second-half collapse at some point. It just hasn't happened, and it's so late in the season that it makes you wonder if it ever will happen. They've overachieved in so many ways that it's stunning. Even at .500, they're 3.5 games back in the wild card standings. 

Perhaps it's unfair to the Marlins to say that Giancarlo Stanton is carrying them, but it's pretty close to being true. He leads the team in nearly every offensive category (home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, OPS, runs scored) by a wide margin, and it seems like he's always in the middle of every Miami rally. As a defender, he routinely makes highlight-reel worthy catches in right field, showing that he's every bit the five-tool player most scouts thought he'd be when he was first promoted to the big leagues four years ago. Maybe it's a bit of an overstatement, but he's willing a scrappy Marlins team (without its best starting pitcher in Jose Fernandez, no less) to what should be an intriguing last six weeks of the season. 

NEW YORK METS 

On the field, it was a mostly forgettable week for the Metropolitans. They went 2-5 against the Nationals and Cubs, dropped to 59-67 and are now just trying to provide fans hope for a much-improved 2015. In that regard, it's been the same old same old for New York.  

But the lone drama from last week came when manager Terry Collins reportedly told Matt Harvey -- still recovering from Tommy John's surgery performed in October of last year -- that he will not be pitching this season despite his repeated requests to do so. Harvey is apparently rushing his rehab process and wanted to make it back by the end of the year, however unrealistic as that may sound. But Collins is doing the prudent thing in keeping Harvey out; no need to risk another big injury in the midst of a lost season. 

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone with little movement, the Phillies still have to play out the string with six weeks left in the season. Perhaps there'll be a move made before the non-waiver deadline at the end of the month, but anything big at this point would be considered a surprise for Ruben Amaro and company. After a 2-4 week, they still reside comfortably in the basement of the NL East at 55-70. 

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