Six months ago, the idea of the Miami Marlins residing atop the National League East on the second Saturday of August and on the verge of their longest winning streak in more than four years would have sounded weird.
Now, the only person who might be pumping the brakes on the idea of the Marlinsbecoming the feel-good Cinderella story America desperately needs is manager Don Mattingly.
The Marlins will look to continue their red-hot start Saturday night, when they visit the New York Mets in the middle game of a three-game series.
The Marlins hadn't announced a starter as of late Friday. Rookie left-hander David Peterson (1-1, 3.86 ERA) is expected to make his third big league start for the Mets.
Heading into the day without an announced starter worked out pretty well Friday for the Marlins, who extended their winning streak to six games as they used six pitchers -- including Humberto Mejia, who was named the starter hours before first pitch and struck out six in 2 1/3 innings in his first appearance above Class-A ball -- in a 4-3 victory.
With the win, the Marlins improved to 7-1 for the fourth time in franchise history. Of course, this 7-1 start is different from the others in that it's taking place in a 60-game season and has put Miami in first place in August for the first time ever.
A victory Saturday will give the Marlins their longest winning streak since a seven-game run from April 24-30, 2016. This, too, is a streak unlike any other. Miami's winning streak began July 26 and included an eight-day pause in which the team didn't play as 18 players tested positive for the coronavirus. Fifteen of the 28 players in uniform Friday -- including Mejia and fellow pitcher Nick Vincent, who retired the final five batters Friday to earn his first save since 2016 -- have been added to the roster since Tuesday.
Mattingly is enjoying the ride, but the baseball lifer also knows it's far too soon to book the Marlins' ticket to the postseason, even the expanded 16-team variety.
"I talk about the pennant race -- it's a grind, it's day to day and you want to ride this wave as long as you can, because you know you're going to hit a stretch somewhere," Mattingly said. "I know it's early. We've got a long way to go, trust me. There's a lot of games to be played, but every day's important and that's what we've been preaching."
The Mets are in urgent mode for different reasons. Their schedule has proceeded uninterrupted so far, but losses in seven of the last nine games has left New York tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second-worst winning percentage in the National League (.357).
On Friday, the Mets scored twice in the eighth and had the bases loaded with one out against Vincent, who retired Dominic Smith and Wilson Ramos to escape the jam.
"We've got to push those runs in, especially me personally," Smith said. "We've just got to keep grinding, keep grinding and really just keep focusing, because once we get it going, we could go on a little run."
Peterson took the loss last Sunday, when he gave up three runs over six innings as the Mets fell to the Atlanta Braves, 4-0. He's never faced the Marlins.
--Field Level Media