MIAMI -- Two weeks from now, the Marlins will know whether they are postseason bound for the first time in a full season since 2003. Until then, the Marlins have proved to themselves they can compete with the best.
Miami set a season high for runs with a four-homer performance -- led by Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s second grand slam in as many days and Jorge Soler’s blast in his return from the injured list -- and left-hander Jesús Luzardo went six scoreless innings in a 16-2 victory over Atlanta on Sunday afternoon at loanDepot park.
- Games remaining: vs. NYM (3), vs. MIL (3), at NYM (3), at PIT (3)
- Standings update: The Marlins (78-72) moved into the third NL Wild Card spot, a half-game behind the D-backs (79-72), who beat the Cubs on Sunday night. Chicago is also 78-72, but Miami owns the first tiebreaker (4-2), based on head-to-head matchups. The Marlins also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona (4-2). Having tied the season series (3-3) with Cincinnati, Miami (24-22 against the NL East) holds the second tiebreaker -- intradivisional record -- over Cincinnati (19-27 against the NL Central).
The Marlins became the first National League club to sweep the NL East champion Braves this season, and the finale capped their daunting 13-game stretch against contending clubs (Dodgers, Phillies, Brewers and Braves). Miami captured three of four series, going 8-5 overall.
“It just shows you that we need to play to that style also,” said manager Skip Schumaker, whose club swept Atlanta at home for the first time since September 2015. “Those guys play every single day, 600-plus at-bats, and I think our guys are getting to the point where they want to play every day, they want to produce, they want to get to this finish line [and] have momentum the next two weeks. It feels like they're doing it, and they're feeling it, and it was a really good home series.”
The same team that scored five total runs in a four-game series in Milwaukee to begin the week matched that total in three separate innings over the weekend. After dropping nine of the first 10 head-to-head matchups with Atlanta by a combined score of 83-29, Miami returned the favor by outscoring the division rival, 36-13.
Miami broke a scoreless deadlock via a five-run third inning with four straight singles against righty Charlie Morton before Chisholm ambushed a first-pitch four-seamer and sent it to straightaway center. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Marlins had the longest streak in AL/NL history of games to start a season without a grand slam (148) immediately followed by two consecutive games with one.
“It does a lot,” said Chisholm, who is the first player in franchise history to hit a grand slam in consecutive games. “We just beat the No. 1 team in baseball. For us, it means everything, because we know if we can beat the Braves, everybody else is not a problem.”
Patience helped the Marlins chase Morton in the fifth following four consecutive two-out walks. An inning later, Soler lofted a two-run homer in a four-run frame following an 11-game absence with a right oblique strain. Jake Burger hit a three-run tater in the seventh, and Nick Fortes added a solo shot in the eighth.
Prior to the club going on the road to Philadelphia and Milwaukee, Soler asked Schumaker whether it was best for him to stay behind and rehab. He did just that, training in the early morning and afternoon to return as quickly as possible.
“Happy to be back in the lineup and be able to help,” Soler said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “Mostly the way that the team is playing, you don't want to miss that, you want to be part of it. But I'm very happy for all of them. Like I said again, you just want to be part of that enjoyment and winning sensation.”
Then there’s Luzardo, whom Milwaukee lit up for six runs in five innings his last time out. He limited Atlanta to four hits and two walks and struck out eight, including the side in the sixth. Take out the game against the Brewers, and Luzardo has a 0.75 ERA in four starts since Aug. 22.
“I think it just shows that obviously we're a great team,” Luzardo said. “We've got pitching, we've got hitting, we're offensively clicking extremely well right now, and I feel like it just shows that we have a lot of fight. The first two games I felt like we came out hot, they came back and kind of punched us in the mouth back, and we responded well. I feel like Marlins teams in the past -- I could speak as a Marlins fan [growing up in Florida] -- kind of would have rolled over at times. And I feel like this team just doesn't do that. We don't really roll over. I feel like there's a lot of fight -- whether it's offensively or defensively, pitching-wise, whatever it might be.”