Numbers tell quite a story for the Miami Marlins in this most unique season: 18 players sidelined with coronavirus early on, seven doubleheaders, 167 transactions since Opening Day and 62 players used.
Even with the pandemic-induced schedule changes and frequent roster moves, the Marlins are playoff-bound and can focus on playoff preparation Saturday afternoon when they continue a three-game series with the host New York Yankees.
"When you go through anything that we've been through, I think it hardens you," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "When you have that idea that you have to win every day and you prepare yourself to win play every day and you put games behind you, good or bad, that gets you ready for a playoff situation."
The Marlins (30-28) clinched a postseason berth for the third time in team history Friday when pinch runner Monte Harrison slid home after ditching his helmet on a sacrifice fly by Jesus Aguilar in the 10th inning to give them a 4-3 win.
"It really means a lot, especially coming out, having the tough time at the beginning of the year," Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson said after the game. "Our guys have been so resilient fighting back through all the coronavirus stuff, dealing with our tough schedule. I'm so proud of our guys. Our guys just kept fighting and fighting, and now the real fun begins.
Miami secured the playoff trip after arriving in New York around 5:30 a.m. following a 4-2 win in Atlanta that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours on Thursday. And that came after a weather delay of more than an hour and a half before the game.
On Friday, the Marlins blew an early three-run lead but wound up celebrating on the field and then took a team picture in the infield shortly after the Yankees hit into a game-ending double play.
"I can't contain the tears, because it's a lot of grind, a lot of passion," said shortstop Miquel Rojas, who started the double play. Rojas missed nearly a month recovering from COVID-19.
"It wasn't just the virus. Last year, we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did," Rojas said.
While the Marlins are enjoying overcoming their obstacles to get into the expanded postseason field, the Yankees are trying to finish up strong and avoid falling into the eighth slot in the American League and a matchup with the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the Yankees eight of 10 times this season.
New York vaulted up the standings with a 10-game winning streak Sept. 9-19. That much-need boost followed a 5-15 skid that knocked it out of first place in the AL East. The Yankees enter Saturday having been outscored 44-24 while losing five of their last six games.
The game-ending double play was the fifth the Yankees hit into on Friday, and they committed four errors and did not homer for a fifth straight game, their longest streak since April 1-5, 2014.
New York already will open the postseason on the road but could still drop to eighth as it enters with a one-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays for third place in the AL East.
"We just haven't played clean enough baseball, and obviously we're going to have to do that if we're going to reach our goal," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We got to play better and tighter."
A pair of rookies will start Saturday when Miami's Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84 ERA) opposes Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88).
Rogers has a 12.60 ERA in his last three starts and last pitched Monday in Atlanta, having allowed five runs in four innings. Rogers is pitching in New York for the third time after allowing two runs in nine innings in his first two starts on Aug. 25 and Aug. 31 against the crosstown Mets.
Garcia is coming off his worst start. In Boston on Sunday, he surrendered six runs on eight hits in three innings in a 10-2 loss. Prior to that start, Garcia pitched seven innings in back-to-back outings, allowing five runs on 11 hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks.
--Field Level Media