Preview: Marlins bats on fire heading into rubber match in Arizona
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 3:30 p.m.
The Miami Marlins have been eliminated from playoff contention, but they haven’t stopped fighting.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are closing in on their first playoff berth since 2011, but they haven’t stopped working to accomplish their goal.
That, in a nutshell, figures to be the mindset for the Marlins (73-81) and Diamondbacks (89-66) when they meet in Sunday’s rubber game of a three-game series.
“This is September baseball,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo told mlb.com. “When you are driving toward something as special as we are, you feel that moment.”
So far, the series has been a hide-your-eyes type of nightmare for pitchers. The Diamondbacks won Friday’s game 13-11 and Miami won 12-6 on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Diamondbacks will throw left-hander Patrick Corbin (14-13, 4.14 ERA) against Miami right-hander Dan Straily (10-9, 4.17 ERA).
Arizona’s magic number for hosting the National League wild-card playoff game is one, which means the Diamondbacks can punch their ticket by simply beating the Marlins on Sunday — no need to worry about what the Colorado Rockies are doing against the San Diego Padres.
But the Diamondbacks — like every team lately — are going to try to be extra careful with Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who went 3-for-6 with four RBIs and a homer on Saturday. Stanton’s homer was his major-league leading 57th of the season.
“He’s been hitting everybody,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told mlb.com when asked about Stanton, who this year has set franchise records for homers and RBIs (125). “He is capable of hitting two homers per game, pretty much.”
Stanton, in fact, has two career homers against Corbin in just 14 at-bats.
But it’s not just Stanton who Corbin has trouble keeping in the park. Corbin has allowed 50 homers the past two years in 55 starts. He has a career 4.14 ERA, but that mark sinks to 5.00 in his career in September.
In five starts against the Marlins, he is 1-1 with a 5.04 ERA.
Still, Corbin, who broke into the majors in 2012, is one win grom setting his career best with 15 victories. And his 32nd start, set to happen Sunday, would tie his career high.
This is Corbin’s second full year after elbow surgery, and his biggest improvement has been his walk rate, which is down from 3.8 to 2.7.
Meanwhile, Straily has turned in his second straight double-figure win season. He doesn’t have much history against Arizona — 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in one career start — but Straily wants to wipe out a 2017 trend in which he has been much better in the first half than he has been after the All-Star Game.
In reality, Straily has been strong in September throughout his career, going 10-4 with a 4.49 ERA. So perhaps this year’s 5.45 second-half ERA and 6.86 September ERA are just aberrations.
But if Straily struggles a little bit on Sunday, he would truly appreciate a couple of those Stanton moon shots.
Stanton, though, said he doesn’t go up there looking for long balls.
“If I go up there trying to hit homers, I would be terrible up there,” Stanton told Fox Sports Florida on Saturday night. “I keep trying to put a good barrel on the ball.”
As for his records set this year, Stanton said he doesn’t have time for those indulgences at the moment.
“I think when the season is over, I can look at my numbers,” said Stanton, a California native who has three homers and 12 RBIs in his past five games. “I’m feeling better. It’s always good to be on the West Coast — that locks me in.”