Despite not yet being one-sixth of the way through the season, the Miami Marlins are in the thick of a pennant race. What would be a better way to see how prepared they are for a postseason chase than by taking on the best pitcher in baseball?
The Marlins will look to win their third series in asmany tries this season when they visit the New York Mets in the finale of a three-game set between the National League East rivals.
Pablo Lopez (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to become the first Marlins pitcher to make a second start this season. Miami, which didn't play from July 27 through Aug. 3 after 18 players tested positive for the coronavirus, is the first team in baseball history to start a different pitcher in each of the season's first nine games.
The Mets will counter with two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (1-0, 2.12), who is lined up to make his fourth start of the year.
The Marlins missed out on a chance to match the best nine-game start in franchise history Saturday night, when their six-game winning streak was snapped as the Mets hit three homers in an 8-4 victory.
Despite the loss, the Marlins remain atop the NL East and in a playoff race -- granted, it's a 60-game season in which 16 teams will qualify for the postseason -- barely 10 months removed from completing a 2019 campaign in which they went an NL-worst 57-105.
No matter how the pennant race was generated, Marlins manager Don Mattingly is excited his team is involved in it.
"It's pennant race baseball -- it's the best," Mattingly said Saturday night. "Think about it: We're in August, and if you were in a normal season, you've already played a ton of games to get here. Every game would feel big. And that's what they feel like now."
There aren't many tasks bigger than trying to solve deGrom, who picked up where he left off last season. DeGrom, who is trying to become just the third pitcher -- after Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson -- to win three straight Cy Young Awards -- has allowed just 12 baserunners in 17 innings while striking out 22 batters and regularly hitting 100 mph with his fastball.
"He's just the complete package," Mets outfielder Michael Conforto said after deGrom earned his first win of the season on Monday, when he allowed two runs over six innings in a 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. "I'm kind of sick of talking about how good he is, but I'm glad he's on our team."
Lopez earned the win in his season debut Tuesday, when the Marlins returned to action and he allowed two hits while striking out seven over five innings while earning the win in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. He is 2-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three career starts against the Mets.
DeGrom is 9-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 22 starts against the Marlins.
--Field Level Media