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Marlins making move toward top

The Miami Marlins are coming for the Washington Nationals. Miami was thought to be a third-place team in the National League East coming into the 2016 Major League Baseball season, and yet here the Marlins are, sitting second in the division and making a move.

Miami is 53-45 and 4.5 games behind the Nationals, who appeared to be on the charge only weeks ago, but are now stalled in neutral throughout July. Meanwhile, the Marlins are moving to the forefront of the pennant race with Jose Fernandez leading the way.

With the MLB trade deadline on Aug. 1, Miami has a chance to improve its team around Fernandez. Outside of the incredibly talented Cuban sensation, the Marlins don’t have a ton of playoff-ready starters. As it stands, they would be trotting out Adam Conley, Tom Koehler and Wei-Yen Chen to the mound in a series (Chen went onto the disabled list on Monday with an elbow strain).

Miami should be making some calls to teams that are selling, starting with the Oakland Athletics. What would it take to get Rich Hill, who is going to be hitting free agency after this year? At 36 years old, the price would not be insanely high. How about calling up the Atlanta Braves and finding out if there is a way to get Julio Teheran from their division rival? The cost would be huge but Teheran is under team control for years, making him affordable for the low-budget Marlins.

Another thought could be to stand pat in the pitching ranks and hope the offense can roll. Giancarlo Stanton is having a down year by his standards, but he is still leading the team with 21 home runs and 55 RBI. Stanton is only hitting .239, albeit with a .333 on-base percentage.

Unlike Fernandez, Stanton has plenty of help around him. Marcell Ozuna is finally becoming the primetime player many believed he could be, hitting .296 with 17 homers and 52 RBI. Then there is outfielder Christian Yelich, leading the team with a .325 average to go with 10 blasts and 26 doubles. Martin Prado is also hitting .322 while J.T. Realmuto is batting at a.308 clip.

Translation: Miami can really, really hit.

If the Marlins reach the playoffs, and they are on pace to be the second wild card team in the National League, they would be no easy out. Fernandez could certainly pull them through the winner-take-all scenario before going into a series that would require a few gutsy pitching efforts and some mashing.

Miami is no sure thing to reach the postseason, with that shaky rotation constantly looming. The rest of the National League better hope it comes to pass.

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