(Photo credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports)
If any two teams display just how unpredictable this season has been, it's the New York Mets and Miami Marlins.
Entering the 2023 campaign, New York boasted the highest payroll in the majors at $354 million, yet the Mets are five games away from being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. Meanwhile, Miami, which entered the year with the seventh-lowest payroll in baseball, still has aspirations of playing deep into October.
Those teams will continue their unlikely journeys on Monday evening when New York (69-80) opens a three-game series with host Miami (78-72).
The Marlins' grit was on full display over the weekend, as Miami swept the Atlanta Braves in a three-game series. Atlanta has the best record in the majors at 96-53.
With the sweep, the Marlins pulled into a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the third and final National League wild-card spot with 12 games left in the regular season.
"It shows the fight we've got," said Marlins center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr., who has grand slams in back-to-back games. "We just came out with a vengeance and had that fight in our heart that we're not going to come out here and we're not going to lay down. We're not going to be bottom feeders every year."
Mets right-hander Jose Butto (1-2, 3.46 ERA) will look to ding Miami's confidence on Monday when he makes his seventh appearance and fifth start of the season. It also will be his first career outing against the Marlins.
Butto has been strong over his last two starts, allowing just three runs in 11 1/3 innings. He most recently gave up one run on two hits in five innings to earn a win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
Although the Mets aren't in contention, manager Buck Showalter is happy with how some of his pitchers have stepped up, a group that includes Butto, Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchesi.
"They're trying to present themselves well for the future and also try to finish strong this year and give the team a chance to win," Showalter said.
But it hasn't just been the pitching that has helped the Mets grab four wins in their last six games, as the offense has scored at least seven runs four times during that stretch.
Pete Alonso, who has the second-most homers in the majors with 45, has gone deep in two of those contests.
Miami's hot offense got a big boost on Sunday as Jorge Soler returned from an oblique injury, playing in his first game since Sept. 5. He leads the team with 36 homers this season after hitting a two-run shot in his return.
Soler will look to help provide run support for right-hander Edward Cabrera (6-7, 4.52 ERA), who is scheduled to make his 17th start of the season on Monday.
In his most recent outing, Cabrera allowed two runs on one hit in 4 2/3 innings while taking a loss against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Cabrera has struggled against the Mets in his career, going 1-2 with a 6.65 ERA in six starts.
The Marlins could be without outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, who is dealing with right ankle discomfort. De La Cruz is hitting .254 with 19 homers and 74 RBIs this season.
--Field Level Media