The Marlins are headed to the NLDS after sweeping the Cubs in their best-of-three Wild Card matchup with a 2-0 win Friday. Holding Chicago to just one run over the two contests, Miami advanced in its first postseason appearance since winning the World Series in 2003.
Perhaps baseball’s most unlikely playoff team, the Marlins entered the season expected to be among the worst team in the sport. They lost 105 games in 2019, their 10th consecutive losing season and second straight since Derek Jeter took over as CEO and minority owner of the franchise.
However, the rise of their young rotation coupled with an expanded playoff field helped the Marlins return to the postseason despite FanGraphs giving them a 9.2% chance to do so on Opening Day. That figure ranked last among all NL East teams, trailing the Nationals (76.7%), Braves (72.4%), Mets (68.3%) and Phillies (49.3%). They were pegged with a 0.0% chance of winning the World Series.
Yet instead it’s the Nationals, Mets and Phillies who are out of it while the Braves and Marlins square off in divisional battle. It won’t be the only one, either: The Yankees and Rays will face each other in an all-AL East ALDS while the Astros and A’s will fight for respect in the AL West. If the Padres beat the Cardinals on Friday night, it will set up an NLDS against the NL West rival Dodgers.
What really makes the Marlins’ sudden rise all the more improbable is the coronavirus outbreak they endured early in the season. At least 18 players and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in late July, forcing the front office to acquire a slew of free agents to fill the holes on their roster. After missing eight days of their schedule, the Marlins returned to play their 57 games over 54 days with seven doubleheaders along the way.
Miami won three of four to finish the season at 31-29, cementing its first winning record since 2010. Following their series win over Chicago, the Marlins have now extended a streak of seven playoff series wins in a row. They made the playoffs only twice in their 27-year history heading into 2020, but both those playoff berths resulted in World Series titles.