The Marlins need to send a text message to Lou Piniella and the Cubs.
It should read: “HELP!”
The idea of the Marlins reaching the playoffs may seem out of the question, but with seven games left the formula is pretty simple. They can forget about winning the NL East. Those hopes all but disappeared when they fell to the Phillies Saturday and Sunday.
But the Marlins do have a shot – albeit a long one – at winning the wild card, and the reason is the Cubs.
The Marlins opened play Monday five games behind the Mets and 3 ½ games behind the Brewers in the wild card race, but the Marlins play the Mets the final three games of the season at Shea Stadium, where Florida knocked the Mets out of the playoffs on the final day of the season a year ago.
To catch New York, the Marlins have to make up at least two games over the next games and then sweep the Mets. The key is Piniella and his Cubs, who play the next four games against the Mets.
The Cubs have clinched the NL Central, and if they beat the Mets tonight they clinch home field in the first two rounds of the playoffs. If the Cubs could take 3 of 4 from the Mets or sweep the Mets in the four-game series, it would leave the door open for the Marlins, who play the Reds in a makeup game Monday and then play three games in Washington, where they are 6-0 this season.
The Cubs also have a hand in Milwaukee’s playoff hopes, because the Cubs play their final three games against the Brewers. .
To catch the Brewers, the Marlins have to make up 3 ½ games games, but if the Marlins go 6-1 the Brewers would have to go 3-3 to hold off Florida. If the Marlins go 7-0, Milwaukee would have to win four of its last six.
Sounds easy enough for Milwaukee, but the Brewers have won only five games in September and have lost eight of their last 10. Sure, the Brewers play their next three against the last-place Pirates, but C.C. Sabathia will make just one more start and that’s Thursday against the Pirates. If the Brewers go 1-2 against Pittsburgh and 1-2 or 2-1 against the Pirates against the Cubs, the Marlins could leapfrog them by going 6-1.
There is one other variable, and that’s the Houston Astros, who have a one-game lead over the Marlins. The Marlins need to go 6-1 or 7-0 to have a realistic chance at the playoffs, and if they do it would force the Astros to match them to win the wild card. Houston plays the Reds and Braves down the stretch, so it’s not out of the question.
If the Mets win 3 of 4 from the Cubs they would eliminate the Marlins even if the Marlins go 4-0 before reaching New York.
Still, the Marlins have a real chance to get to the playoffs – with some help from the Cubs.
Then there’s the final irony: If the Cubs knock off the Mets and Brewers to open the door for the Marlins, Florida would then open the playoffs at on the road at Wrigley Field against the Cubs.