There are still 111 games and a little more than four months left in the season, but if the playoffs started today the Marlins (29-22) would be hosting the New York Mets in a wild card game.
So who would be on the mound for the Marlins in a winner-take-all one-game playoff? All things being equal, Ozzie Guillen said Wednesday it wouldn't be Opening Day starter Josh Johnson. Nor ERA team leader Anibal Sanchez (2.57), who ranks fourth in the NL in strikeouts (70). It wouldn't be the franchise's all-time wins leader Ricky Nolasco either.
Guillen's guy for a must-win playoff game? Mark Buehrle.
"Nothing against my other four guys, but that's the only one I know what I'm going to get for that particular day," said Guillen of the veteran 33-year old left-hander, who won a World Series for him in 2005.
"I've told him in the past when the bullpen is tired -- give me 7, 8, 9 innings. He'll give you everything he has," Guillen went on to say. "He's not an unbelievable athlete. But they don't give you a gold glove just because. This kid is legit. I hope everyone gives him a little bit of love. If that guy pitched for the New York Yankees, he would be an ace. He pitches for the White Sox and Marlins, who cares. He's not a first round pick who came in being a $100 million guy. He just works his ass off to put himself in a good position. He throws 84, 85, 86 and makes $100 million. There has to be a reason. You make all that money with that crap he throws, you better be good."
Buehrle, who will open a three-game series against the Phillies in Philadelphia Friday, went 4-0 with a 3.19 ERA in May. He held opponennts to a .235 average, down from the .274 average he allowed over his five starts in April when he went 1-4 with a 3.34 ERA.
COGHLAN FEELING RELAXED
His batting average is still an abysmal .134 (9 for 67). His on base percentage is just as bad at .174. But little by little former National League Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan is beginning to find a niche and valuable role with the Marlins.
Since Emilio Bonifacio went down with a sprained left thumb May 19th, Coghlan has started nine of 11 games in the outfield. And although he's hit just .152 in that span, he's played a valuable role in several big wins.
Last Friday, he belted a 3-run home run off San Francisco's Tim Lincecum and on Wednesday had a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning in the Marlins 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Nationals.
But his biggest lift has come defensively, where he's made several nice catches on the run to preserve leads.
"Little by little he contributes to win some games," Guillen said. "I know the batting average isn't what we want. But he just started to play everyday just a couple days ago. He made a big play for us, big RBI and runs scored for us. Little by little he's doing stuff. I think he feels good about himself, helping us to win some games and that's what we need.
"We're not going to win with one or two guys. We're going to win with 25 guys. This kid started his career very well and then injuries took over and put him a little bit backwards. A few people passed him and now it's his opportunity to show us he can be an everyday player again. He's going to have times. Hopefully he takes advantage of that and opens some people's eyes, help us to win some games."